Tobacco farming is brisk business in Zimbabwe.

Whilst most of Zimbabwe’s agricultural industry remains in crisis, tobacco plantations are flourishing. Zimbabwe’s rose and horticulture export business, formerly worth $87 million a year, has largely disappeared and corn, once an export crop for Zimbabwe, now needs to be imported, with 97,000 tons bought from South Africa since the beginning of May.

However the exception to this agricultural decline is tobacco.

According to the Zimbabwe Tobacco Association, in 2000 Zimbabwe produced 236 million kilograms of tobacco. During the turbulence of the farm takeovers in 2008, tobacco production plunged to 48.3 million kilograms. In 2014 it is making a strong comeback with this year’s crop of 166.7 million kilograms earning about $612 million.

The recovery of the tobacco industry has provided a boon for the new growers of this crop; mostly black, newly resettled farmers who have stepped into an industry that was once the preserve of the country’s 4,500 white commercial farmers.

According to the government’s Tobacco Industry Marketing Board, 65% of this crop was grown by 110,000 small-scale farmers, of which 39.5% are women. Women in Zimbabwe are fast becoming tobacco tycoons, holding their heads high in the midst of male tobacco farmers, who traditionally dominated this field.

With regard to the crop itself, Chinese buyers acquired $197 million worth of tobacco while Belgium bought $102 million.

August 21, 2014
Roland A. Jansen

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