Vice President Chiwenga officially opens 2024 Tobacco Marketing Season

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Vice President Dr. Constantino Chiwenga officially opened the 2024 Tobacco Marketing Season on Wednesday 13 March 2024  where he reiterated that agriculture remains one of the key sectors in Zimbabwe’s accelerated drive to achieve an Empowered and Prosperous Upper Middle-Income Society by 2030.

In 2020, the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, His Excellency Dr. Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, launched the Agriculture and Food Systems Transformation Strategy which has now been refined to the Agriculture, Food Systems and Rural Transformation Strategy, aimed at enhancing agriculture production, productivity and profitability in line with the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) (2021-2025).
The tobacco industry is a sector that has great potential to grow and increase the country’s export earnings. This realization led to the launch of the Tobacco Value Chain Transformation Plan. The thrust of the Tobacco Value Chain Transformation Plan is to transform the tobacco value chain into a USD5 billion industry by 2025. This will be achieved through increased production and productivity, increasing local production to Three Hundred Million Kilogrammes annually, localisation of tobacco production financing, value addition and beneficiation as well as exports of cigarettes, employment creation and raising household incomes, among others.
Vice President, Hon. Gen. (Rtd) Dr C.G.D.N. Chiwenga, while officiating the commencement of the 2024 tobacco marketing season at the Tobacco Sales Floor where the first bale auctioned was sold at a price of USD4.92/kg, said agriculture makes a significant contribution to foreign currency earnings and tobacco remains the flagship of this sector.
“The government is pleased to note that tobacco production in the country has rebounded significantly since the advent of the land reform programme. Zimbabwe produced Two Hundred and Eleven Million Kilogrammes of tobacco, Two Hundred and Twelve Million Kilogrammes and a record-breaking Two Hundred and Ninety Six Million Kilogrammes in 2021, 2022 and 2023, respectively. The target is now to increase production from the current Two Hundred and Ninety-Six Million Kilogrammes to Three Hundred Million Kilogrammes annually, as stipulated in the Tobacco Value Chain Transformation Plan.
“In this endeavor, I challenge all stakeholders in the tobacco value chain to work hand in glove to achieve and surpass this target. The government through the Ministry of Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion, remains committed to capacitating tobacco farmers by localizing financing for the One Hundred and Fifty Thousand Producers. We are aware that there were some bottlenecks in rolling out that programme which the responsible Ministry has addressed,” he said.
Furthermore, in a bid to mitigate the increased cost of production, the foreign currency retention for tobacco growers for the 2023/24 tobacco marketing season was standardised at Seventy-Five per cent in line with the retention level for other market players. This effectively means that Twenty-Five per cent will be paid to tobacco growers in local currency.
VP Chiwenga urged growers to also participate in the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe auction to get foreign currency from the United States Dollar payments.
He bemoaned the fact the government will still export Ninety-Eight per cent of tobacco in raw form, in the process exporting jobs and value.
“In tandem with our value addition and beneficiation thrust, the Second Republic has laid down a comprehensive plan in the tobacco value chain. I am pleased with current investments in tobacco processing plants in the country to give impetus to value addition from the current 2 percent of tobacco produced to over 30 percent. As Government, we are creating an enabling environment for entities interested in value addition and beneficiation of Zimbabwean tobacco, in the broader framework of a private sector-led economy,” he added.
This year, Zimbabwe will be hosting the World Tobacco Africa from the 15 to 16 May 2024. World Tobacco Africa will host the all-new Africa Leaf Tobacco Conference alongside an exhibition of suppliers to the industry. It will be an opportunity to highlight the strides Zimbabwe has made in transformation from growing to processing while illustrating the great investment potential in the country.
The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) was urged to ensure fairness and transparency in tobacco marketing and that all stakeholders receive fair value from their investment. In the same vein, all farmers were encouraged to continue growing tobacco in a manner that is sustainable and environment eco-friendly.
Mr. Patrick Davenish, the TIMB Chairman said Zimbabwe has, over the years, grappled with the repercussions of the climate crisis, which have led to erratic rainfall patterns characterized by either severe floods or prolonged periods of drought.
He said the just-ended production season was one such year in which the Meteorological Services Department of Zimbabwe predicted a strong El Niño event occurring between October 2023 and March 2024.
It was predicted that this event was expected to have adverse effects on rainfall from October 2023 to March 2024, potentially leading to drought conditions in Zimbabwe. Anticipated outcomes included a delayed onset of rainfall and prolonged dry spells.
“The tobacco production sector was not spared as a total of 113 101 ha was planted in comparison to 117 645 ha planted at the same time last year. The negative four percentage variance was because of delayed rains that were received which affected the delayed timing for planting for the dryland crop.
“The late rains caused a delayed establishment of crops for small-scale farmers who contribute over 70% of the national yield. Consequently, there was a decline in volume produced per hectare. For this marketing season, the number of registered growers is 115,114 compared to 148,300 in the prior year. The due diligence undertaken by the Board to ensure compliance with the registration process led to the decline,” Mr. Davenish said.
For this season, the Board has licensed two auction floors, and these are, the Tobacco Sales Floor (TSF) and Premier Tobacco Auction Floor (PTAF).
The two floors were found to be ready for business including compliance to cholera and COVID-19 guidelines.