Farmer's Voice

Leaf sales in Zimbabwe down to 8.5%

With leaf sales in Zimbabwe down 8.5% y-y to 188.5 million kilograms this year as the drought in southern Africa affected the production of the country's top export earner, thousands of farmers who made little from their tobacco crop, after switching from traditional staples like maize, sorghum and groundnuts, fear of going hungry this winter, as the government said the country's maize harvest dropped by 49% in the 2014-15 season and is expected to exacerbate food shortages. Zimbabwe has a maize deficit of 700,000 tons, or about half of its annual maize requirement. The farmers who grew tobacco said they were offered low prices, and leaf buyers said the quality of the crop was too poor. One farmer who tried growing tobacco for the first time this past year said he cured the leaf poorly, and the little that he could sell fetched a low price, leaving him with insufficient money to repay the loan he obtained for tobacco seed, fertilizer and labor. Over 88,000 growers registered with the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board for the 2014-15 season, up from 52,000 in 2012. Leaf sales generated $555 million this season, down from $654 million a year ago.

Eddie Cross, an economist and opposition parliamentarian, said the push to tobacco farming is having a substantial impact on food security in the country, as many small scale growers cannot afford the expensive inputs required to profit from tobacco production (Reuters 7/22)