Zimbabwe's tobacco output increase - Chinese heavily involved..

February 19, 2011 - ZIMBABWE'S tobacco output will increase at least 40 percent this year after a boost in funding to farmers from banks and firms, many of which are Chinese, and due to good weather, an industry official said on Wednesday.

Chinese companies have become the major financiers and buyers of Zimbabwe's tobacco crop and industry officials say these firms will buy at least half of this year's tobacco.

Tobacco's earnings potential has fallen behind that of mining in recent years. Before the collapse of commercial agriculture in 2000, as President Robert Mugabe oversaw the seizures of white-owned farms, it was the country's single largest foreign currency earner, generating $400 million.

Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) chief executive Andrew Matibiri told Reuters during the opening of the 2011 selling season on Wednesday that he expected sales of at least 170 million kg this year, up from the 120 million kg which earned the country US$384 million last year.

Zimbabwe's tobacco-selling season opened on Wednesday, February 16th with beneficiaries of President Robert Mugabe's land reform programme forming the majority of those who brought their bundles to the market. Agriculture Minister Joseph Made said the farmers who cultivate small plots were expected to deliver the bulk of the crop, saying it was vindication of a programme which saw thousands of white-owned farms expropriated. (Land battle sets black against white by Africa Correspondent Jane Standley, BBC News, 12/1/1998) It is expected that during the marketing season more than half of the tobacco will come from small-scale farmers, that is communal and A1 (small-scale) farmers who now constitute 82 percent of the total registered farmers," he added.

References: China oversees tobacco crop leap by Reuters/AFP, newzimbabwe.com, 2/16/2011; New farmers dominate Zimbabwes tobacco sales, AFP, 2/16/2011; New farmers dominate Zimbabwe tobacco sales, thecitizen.co.tz, 2/19/2011.

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