Zimbabwe tobacco earnings slump after drought

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Zimbabwe tobacco earnings for 2016 have slumped significantly after a severe drought that has left 4.5 million people who represent 30 percent of the rural population in need of food aid.

Buyers inspect bales of tobacco on the opening day of the 2011 selling season at Zimbabwe's Tobacco Sales Floor (TSF) in Harare February 16, 2011. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo  (ZIMBABWE - Tags: BUSINESS)

Buyers inspect bales of tobacco on the opening day of the 2011 selling season at Zimbabwe’s Tobacco Sales Floor (TSF) in Harare February 16, 2011. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo (ZIMBABWE – Tags: BUSINESS)

To date, a total of 187.6 million kg of tobacco leaf worth 548 million dollars has been sold compared with 189 million kg worth 855 million dollars sold in 2015.

The four-month 2016 marketing season will end on August 5.

Overall output for 2016 is expected to reach 190 million kg against an initial target of 160 million kg, an industry official told Xinhua Friday.

Earnings, however, would suffer a significant decline and this was mainly due to poor quality crop as a result of the drought.

While maintaining last year’s average price of 2.94 U.S. dollars per kg, the drought had generally reduced the quality of the crop this year thereby affecting prices, said Isheunesu Moyo, the public relations and communications manager of the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board Moyo.

He said the improved tobacco output was due to some rains received during the mid-season and improved agronomic practices by the growers.

Many farmers also put their crop under irrigation and this helped to increase the crop, he said.

Tobacco is generally Zimbabwe’s largest foreign currency earner but it appears it has been surpassed this year by mining which has already raked in 806 million dollars from export sales in the first half of 2016.

More than 50 percent of Zimbabwe’s tobacco crop is exported to China every year.

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