Tobacco is the country’s major foreign currency earner after it raked in nearly $1billion last year in export receipts, ahead of platinum and gold.
The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board spokesperson, Isheunesu Moyo, said this season’s dates had now been set, with the floors opening on March 15.
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor John Mangudya said he anticipated the crop to perform well providing much-needed foreign exchange.
He has been lobbying for the early opening of the golden leaf’s marketing season given its significant role in oiling the country’s nostro accounts.
“The opening up of the tobacco floors during the first quarter of 2017 will boost the country’s foreign exchange earnings and this is expected to go a long way in ameliorating the liquidity challenges,” he said.
As motivation to encourage farmers to grow tobacco, the bank paid out $26.6million of the $29.3m 5%export incentive scheme introduced last year to tobacco farmers who delivered their crop in the 2016 marketing season.
Figures from the tobacco board show that as of January 5, tobacco planted for the 2016/17 season stood at 91805hectares compared to 87755ha last season.
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa anticipated huge tobacco foreign currency earnings from this year’s crop, essential in easing the country’s liquidity and foreign payment hurdles.
“I have high prospects for a greater output from tobacco especially from foreign currency earning,” he said.
“Because of the 5% bank incentive, this has motivated tobacco farmers to increase their crop.”
The number of registered tobacco farmers for the 2016/17 season has risen by 10910 to 81172.
This year’s output has been pegged at 200million kilograms despite indications that excess rains may militate against a better yield.
While tobacco production has been improving, it has not yet reached the record high of 236.13 million kilograms in 2000. In 2001, 20.5million were sold. The decline continued from 2003 to 2005 when 81.8million, 69.1million and 73.3million kilograms were sold respectively.
In 2006, 55.5million were sold while only 73.5million were delivered in 2007.
In 2010, 123.5 million kilograms worth $355.7m went under the hammer.
The figures rose to 132.5million as tobacco valued at $361.5m was sold in 2011. In 2012, 144.5million kilograms valued at $540m were sold, rising to 166.7 million worth $610m in 2013.
In 2014, 216.2 million kilograms were sold, realising $685.2m. In 2015, tobacco output was 199 million kilograms raking in $867m.
Statistics from the tobacco board show that as of December 29, 164.5 million kilograms of tobacco valued at $933.6m had been exported.