03-16-17 by Spotlight Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe expects biggest tobacco harvest in 17 Years

Zimbabwe is expecting its biggest tobacco harvest in nearly two decades from the 2016-17 farming season, Agriculture Minister Joseph Made said Wednesday.

The expected yield of 205 million kilogrammes – up from 202 million kilogrammes in 2015-16 – would be the highest since 2000, Made said at the opening of the southern African country’s tobacco selling season in the capital, Harare.

It was in 2000 that President Robert Mugabe’s government stepped up its controversial land reform programme, expropriating experienced white farmers and redistributing their land to black smallholders.

The expropriation led to a dramatic fall in agricultural production and contributed to an economic crisis that still persists.

But tobacco has been cultivated by black farmers with increasing success and is currently the country’s top export crop.

Tobacco farmers earn foreign currency worth more than 800 million dollars annually, said John Mangudya, governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.

“Producers of tobacco, you are indeed our heroes. You are important to this economy,” he told farmers attending the opening.

This season’s harvest is expected to be boosted by abundant rains in tobacco-growing areas and the entry of new farmers into the trade, Made said.

The Reserve Bank pledged bonuses for tobacco sales to help stimulate the economy, which is expected to shrink by 2.5 per cent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund.

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