ZIMBABWE has sold about 2.5 billion kilogrammes of tobacco valued at US$7.1 billion since 2007, with China and Indonesia absorbing most of the golden leaf, data from the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) show.
Tobacco is one of Zimbabwe’s leading foreign currency earners, alongside gold and diaspora remittances. The country, which is the largest producer of tobacco in Africa and the sixth globally, is aiming to turn tobacco farming into a US$5 billion industry by 2025.
According to data contained in the TIMB 2021 report, Zimbabwe has been earning billions of dollars from tobacco sales since 2007 when the country began selling the product in greenback.
The years which contributed much in terms of value were 2018 and 2014, with US$737.4 million and US$612.1 million respectively.
The lowest contributors were 2008 and 2007, at US$156.7 million and US$169.2 million, respectively.
Last year, the southern African nation raked in US$589.7 million from tobacco sales. According to TIMB chief executive officer Meanwell Gudu, in 2021 Zimbabwe exported 183.7 million kilogrammes which was lower than the 187.9 million kgs exported in 2020.
The export pattern was the same pattern in the past three years from 2019. However, the report shows that peak exports for 2021 were first realised in April.
“These were shipments to China that had been halted due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Traditionally, Chinese shipments are done between November and January,” he said.
The export earnings for 2021 totalled to US$819.7 million, data show. This was a significant increase from US$763 million recorded in 2020. The 2021 average export price for tobacco was US$4.46 per kilogramme compared to US$4.06 per kg for 2020.
Gudu said the Far East has been the top destination for Zimbabwean tobacco since 2012, absorbing a high of 52% of total exports in 2016 and 40% in 2021.
“China and Indonesia are the main markets for Zimbabwean tobacco in the Far East. The European Union and Africa are also significant destinations for Zimbabwean tobacco, absorbing a combined 38% of total exports in 2021,” he said.
Gudu said a total of 7.9 million kgs was imported from 10 countries compared to five million kgs imported in 2020. The imported tobacco was used for blending with local stock for either cigarette manufacturing or processing and export, he said.
“Imports from the Dominican Republic and Indonesia are mainly used for the manufacture of cigars. 98% of the imports was flue-cured virginia (FCV) tobacco and 2% was burley and dark fire,” he said.
Gudu said the year 2021 ended with stocks amounting to approximately 122 million kgs compared to 121 million kgs in the previous year.