Tobacco sales in Zimbabwe so far this year have reached 100 million kilograms, beating the official target of 77 million kilograms set before the selling season opened, and could mount to 120 million kilograms, industry sources said.
Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board Chief Executive Njodzi Machirori said sales of tobacco leaf have brought in US$297 million, nearly double sales in 2009 when the sector was reeling from a decade of land reform.
Machirori told VOA Studio 7 reporter Gibbs Dube that while Zimbabwe is still far from the record 236 million kilograms sold in 2000, there are signs that sales of tobacco will advance further in 2011.
“We are currently receiving one million kilograms of tobacco a day from farmers and indications are that the next season will surpass this year’s targets,” said Machirori. He attributed the high output to high tobacco prices, early marketing of the national crop and stabilization of the economy by the unity government in place since February 2009.
Tobacco has traditionally been a major source of hard currency earnings for Zimbabwe.
Tobacco production and sales went into a slide after President Robert Mugabe launched fast-track land reform in 2000 through the often violent seizure of white-owned commercial farms by liberation war veterans.
Many so-called new farmers have turned from maize and other cereals to tobacco for the hard currency income - but the widespread use of charcoal for tobacco drying has devastated many wooded areas in the country.