Tobacco production in Zimbabwe will continue its recovery this year, but the output can be less than the projected 150 million kg due to limited funding and erratic rainfall, the farmers said the auction season opens on Wednesday.
Tobacco, Zimbabwe, which has brought about 400 million U.S. dollars in 2011, behind mining, the leading foreign exchange earner in the country, after President Robert Mugabe’s seizure of white farms saw the production of most major crops falls.
Tobacco production fell to 48 million kg in 2008 from a peak of 236 million kg in 2000.
Small farmers have led the rebound, based on the use of a stable foreign currency by the Government to replace the local unit destroyed by hyperinflation, and funding from China - which currently dominates the market previously controlled by Western traders.
Marketing Council of the tobacco industry (TIMB), which regulates the sector in Zimbabwe, said he expects production to reach 150 million kg this year, compared with 131 million kg before, but farmers say that the goal can not be achieved.
“We will be happy if we could match the production of last year. Rainfall has been patchy, and many farmers abandoned due to lack of funding, so we’re unlikely to see a significant jump in output,” Zimbabwe Farmers Union vice-president of Berean Mukwende told Reuters during a ceremony to mark the official start of trading.
More than 50,000 mostly small black farmers have in producing much of the harvest, when the reserve of white commercial farmers.
Tobacco Farmer Elphanos Mashingaidze said that although the output is unlikely to change from the previous year, farmers are expected to stronger prices at this time.
“Today’s opening price, for what is generally low quality of tobacco, gives us confidence that this year the price could be better,” said Mashingaidze. “We have an average price of $ 4.50 per kg to the farm profitable.”
He said that while Chinese firms financed by some farmers on contract growing schemes and buy about 75 percent of the harvest, many farmers are still trying to get bank loans to finance their operations.