The Tobacco Industries and Marketing Board (TIMB) is conducting a tobacco crop assessment process to determine the quality and projected yields of the golden leaf following a fresh lease of life from the current rains.
The assessment is due for completion by the end of next week.
“The crops are improving with current rains and we are expecting some good results. We are currently conducting a crop assessment process and we cannot establish the quality and span of projected yields until a full assessment is done, possibly by the end of next week.
“Farmers are busy managing their tobacco crop on the field and we are expecting some good results from the work being done,” said TIMB chief executive officer Andrew Matibiri on Tuesday.
Tobacco crops are on course to improve after being threatened by an early dry spell that swept across the country.
Fortunately, the negative signs have vanished in most areas giving adequate hope for a better 2019/2020 cropping season. The current rains have resurrected farmers’ confidence after they nearly lost hope for enhanced yields.
The TIMB boss could not establish the number of contracted companies and licensed buyers for the 2020 selling season claiming the licensing process is ongoing with actual numbers to be communicated in due course.
By May of 2019 the board had licensed 38 buyers.
Statistics from the TIMB show that total volumes of tobacco for 2019 increased by 2,7 percent to 259,4 million per kilogramme compared to 2018 volumes. However, the value traded had fallen by 28,6 percent to US$526,7 million on the back of subdued average prices that had fallen by a record 30,5 percent to US$2,03 from US$2,92 per kilogramme in 2018. Last year’s performance of the sub-sector was commendable though.
The commodity contributes a very significant percentage to the national Gross Domestic product (GDP), often above 10 percent and is the country’s second largest foreign currency earner after gold.
The country considers upscaling tobacco production through enhancing tobacco irrigation as well as supporting small-scale tobacco farmers.
Some facts about tobacco
Tobacco plants have tiny seeds with a single flower carrying at most 3 000 seeds. The plant produces between 20 and 30 leaves, and more if not pruned but farmers in Zimbabwe prefer to work with between 16 and 18 leaves.
Three common varieties are Virginia or flu-cured, burley and oriental tobacco. The three can be merged to produce blended cigarettes.
The best of all is the flu-cured tobacco, also known as “bright tobacco” for the goldish colour it assumes at curing. About 95 percent of Zimbabwe’s tobacco produce is this much needed variety.
Zimbabwe is on record for producing quality tobacco and rubbing shoulders in the sector with the globe’s major producers like China, USA, Brazil and India.
Tobacco can be processed into a biofuel to fuel jets (jet fuel). A US-based company headquartered in Danville, Tyton Bioenergy, claimed once to have unmasked a way to produce the tobacco jet fuel. The prominent airline manufacturer Boeing is also said to have been exploring the same using Zimbabwe’s neighbour, South Africa’s tobacco.