BY MISHMA CHAKANYUKA
The tobacco industry is in good shape despite experiencing a poor run this season, newly-appointed chairperson of the sector’s regulator, Patrick Devenish, has said.
Devenish, who was appointed to head the Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (TIMB) last month, told NewsDay that the new board will be looking to reform certain aspects of the industry.
“The season has been disappointing in terms of pricing. The prices are a dollar down from last year, I think the crop size will be less than last year. By how much? I’m not sure. Maybe by 10 or 20 million kilos,” Devenish said.
“The tobacco industry is used to these things. As I have said before, the smallholder farmer has a very resilient business model. We expect them to keep growing next year and if we have a good rainy season, they will produce the good quality they have always been producing.
“We will slowly fill our way. We have inherited an industry that is in very good shape and our job will be to try and improve on the existing infrastructure. There are a few areas that need attention. We will identify those and do what we need to.”
Previously a preserve for white commercial farmers, tobacco farming in Zimbabwe has, over the years, evolved to become the mainstay for smallholder and subsistence farmers, providing a source of livelihood for most of the country’s rural population.
In 2018, the country produced a record 252 million kilogrammes of flue-cured tobacco, generating at least $1 billion in foreign currency earnings.
But this year, the season has been below par because of the change in payment modalities, unfavourable weather conditions and a cutback in purchases by the industry’s big players.
As of day 53 of trade, tobacco sales were down 44% at $292,8 million, compared to $523,5 million achieved last season, according to TIMB.
Deliveries are down 12% at 157,7 million kilogrammes from 180,3 million kilogrammes delivered in the same period last year.
The price being offered for the crop is also lower than that of last year at an average of $1,85 per kg, down from $2,87 per kg.
So far, the highest price fetched at the auction floors was $4,66 per kg, down from $4,99 last year.