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Zimbabwe earns $517m in tobacco sales

02 August 2012, 16:00

Harare - Zimbabwe sold over 140 million kilos of tobacco this year earning the country over half a billion dollars, in the best showing since land reforms began more than a decade ago, officials said on Thursday.

Figures released by the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board showed the country sold 140.8 million kilos with sales reaching $517m, surpassing last year's 128 million kilos and $349m in revenue.

The average price per kilo this year was $3.67 compared to last year's $2.71, the board said.

Though the country missed a target of 150 million kilos, tobacco farming is slowly rebounding after years of decline following farm disruptions over the last decade when President Robert Mugabe's government seized white-owned commercial farms to give to blacks.

Production has been rising since 2009, though it remains off a peak in 2000 of 236 million kilos.

Zimbabwe was once the world's biggest tobacco exporter, with sales accounting for 30% of exports, but production fell to a low of 55.6 million kilos on 2006, the weakest performance since independence from Britain in 1980.

The sudden collapse of commercial farming caused by the land reforms sent Zimbabwe's already wobbly economy into a tailspin, leading to world-record hyperinflation.

Mugabe has defended the scheme as necessary to redress colonial-era injustices, but the violent campaign had a political colouring linked to deadly attacks against his rivals.

The inflation, believed to have reached multiples of billions in 2008, made it impossible for the new farmers to budget to buy fertilisers and other supplies.

After the government abolished the Zimbabwe dollar and made the US dollar its currency of reference, farm production stabilised and began ticking upward.

Zimbabwe now has four auction floors operating, against just one floor last year.

Tobacco remains Zimbabwe's biggest agricultural export, though mining has overtaken farming as the main foreign currency earner.



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