HARARE – Zimbabwe exported tobacco worth over $500 million in the 2013 selling season, with China remaining the biggest buyer, latest statistics from the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) reveal.
As of last week, the Asian economic giant bought 23 353 750 kg tobacco worth $196 638 575 at an average $8,42 per kg.
China and Zimbabwe’s tobacco trade started in the 1980s after the former developed an interest in the pale to lemon-coloured tobacco produced mostly under irrigation in the Highveld areas of Marondera, Wedza, Beatrice and Harare South.
The last 10 years saw a major shift in China’s import patterns as the Asian giant broadened its scope to include all quality tobacco that is produced in Zimbabwe.
Belgium came in second having bought 19,6 million kg of the golden leaf worth $102 million at an average price of $5,22.
South Africa — which had overtaken China in mid-season — came in a distant third after importing 15 238 891 kg of tobacco worthy $50 million at an average price of $3,31.
The highest export price was $10,03 per kg offered by Japan when it bought 800kg, while Congo offered the lowest price after buying 78 800kg for $0,29.
Andrew Matibiri, the TIMB chief executive, recently indicated that exports to China attracted average prices of $8,60 per kilogramme which was significantly better than the $7,28 price achieved in 2011 when the country exported 57 million kg.
“Our tobacco continues to be in demand the world over. China is not alone in the pursuit of our tobacco.
“This is so because of its good smoking-flavour and very few cigarette brands globally are made without Zimbabwean components,” said Matibiri.
Zimbabwe earned $525 million for 144 million kgs of tobacco this season, a 46 percent increase from last year’s $360 million.
Overall output missed the 150 million kgs production target for the just ended season but tobacco farming continues to rebound after years of decline.
Meanwhile the number of growers who have so far registered to grow tobacco during the 2013/14 season are 77 290, up from 75 904 recorded last week.
According to TIMB, during a similar period in 2012, approximately 55 211 growers had registered to grow tobacco.
Over the past few years Zimbabwean farmers have been abandoning growing maize due to viability concerns.
Industry experts say most local farmers are now seized with growing tobacco and not the staple crop or other food crops, thereby pushing the country into serious food insecurity.
According to Word Food Programme more than 2,2 million Zimbabweans are facing starvation in the current farming season.