China imports 18 mln kg Zimbabwean tobacco remaining the country’s largest leaf buyer

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China has imported 18.6 million kg of Zimbabwean tobacco leaf so far this year as the Asian giant continues to assert its dominance as the biggest buyer of the country’s leaf, statistics from the industry regulator show.Tobacco3

Statistics released to Xinhua Monday by the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) show that China bought 18.6 million kg of the leaf worth 151 million U.S. dollars as of Jan. 15 out of a total 21.1 million kg exported by the country.

This is compared to 5 million kg that China bought during the same period last year from a total 7.3 million kg exported.

In 2015, China bought 41 percent of Zimbabwe’s tobacco leaf, the biggest by a single country, followed by Europe that imported 17 percent.

Another 17 percent went to Africa, seven percent to the Middle East while the remainder went to the rest of the world.

Zimbabwe produced a total of 199.8 million kg of tobacco in 2015 worth 885 million dollars, making tobacco the single largest export earner for the country.

Meanwhile, TIMB chief executive Andrew Matibiri told Xinhua the number of growers for the current season had gone down by 20 percent to 70,412 as of Jan. 15 compared to 88,536 during the same period last year.

He said the late onset of rains had affected planting by most farmers, adding a second crop assessment ending Jan. 25 was underway to determine projected tobacco output for the year.

“The season started late because of late onset of rains. Some farmers are still planting and we will be able to come up with projections once we complete the second crop assessment,” said Matibiri.