Zimbabwean Tobacco Exports Already Exceed $1 Billion in Only 10 Months of 2023
© AP Photo / Tsvangirayi MukwazhiA woman works in a tobacco field at a farm on the outskirt of Harare, Saturday, April, 9, 2022.
© AP Photo / Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi
Tobacco is the largest source of agricultural export income in Zimbabwe and makes the largest foreign currency earning crop in the country, media outlets reported. Zimbabwean tobacco industry continues to grow and sets new ambitious goals.
Profits from Zimbabwean tobacco exports totaled more than $1 billion in the ten months to November 10. This means that compared to the same period last year, revenue increased by 29.2%, The Herald newspaper reported, citing the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board's (TIMB) weekly report.
During that period, Zimbabwe exported 202,678,140 kg of tobacco valued at $1.064 billion, with an average price per kg of $5.25, according to the report.
Last year, by comparison, the country earned $753.1 million by selling 157,947,713 kg of tobacco. The average price of one kilo was $4.77.
Asia has become the largest importer of Zimbabwean tobacco: the country sold almost 95 million kg of gold leaf, earning $682.3 million. Last year, the Asian region, with China and Indonesia being the main markets, was also the leader in purchasing this African tobacco, according to TIMB.
In terms of intra-continental sales, Zimbabwe sold more than 37,000 kg of leaf tobacco this year, bringing in more than $127 million. This is more than 15% more of the product and almost 35% more revenue.
TIMB also mentioned the European Union, Middle East, Europe, and the Americas among other importers.
However, such active interaction with foreign countries is of concern to the executive director of the Zimbabwe Farmers Union, Paul Zakariya. He reportedly said that 90% to 98% of tobacco producers signed contracts with foreign investors every season.
The end result of this, he said, was that Zimbabwe continued to export crops without adding significant value, thereby depriving the country of optimal income from the crop.
"So, if we were to finance production using local funds, you can imagine what we will be able to do with our own tobacco and the industry that can come out of that the people that can be employed and also increased foreign currency generation or revenue that we can collect," he said, according to The Herald.
Despite the success of the tobacco industry, Zimbabwe is still dealing with the consequences of El Niño — a climate pattern that describes the unusual warming of the waters of the Pacific Ocean every few years that might result in floods, droughts and heatwaves.
Zimbabwe has already dealt with El Niño-caused drought, for example in 2015-2016. This time, it is expected to last until February 2024, according to the estimates.
Now, because of this natural phenomenon, the area under tobacco cultivation decreased by 20% to 10,220 hectares, according to the US portal Tobacco Reporter.
However, the country is coping with climate challenges and setting new goals. In August, the media reported that Zimbabwe aimed to achieve revenue of $1.6 billion in tobacco sales, which is a significant increase from revenue of $900 million in 2022. The country also planned to overcome the threshold of 199 million kg, which it managed to do.
Overall, Zimbabwe's tobacco production is expected to rise 8.5% year-on-year to 230 million kg in 2023, thanks to good rainfall and an increase in the number of farmers, according to the Western media. By 2025, the Southern African nation aims to increase tobacco production to 300 million kg.