The Central Bank of Zimbabwe announced last week a volume of tobacco sales reaching 237 thousand metric tons this year, raising the country’s growth forecast from 4.5% to 6%. This news (re)highlights the strategic importance of tobacco production in the Zimbabwean economy continually seeking foreign currency. This chart by Stake experts shows the evolution of tobacco production in the country since 2014.
Zimbabwe is the world’s 7th largest tobacco producer (and the third largest exporter of leaves), with export earnings exceeding $ 900 million in 2017. The industry employs nearly 150,000 producers (86% of whom are small farmers with less than 2 hectares of land dedicated to this crop). The strategic position of tobacco is measured both by the volume of production and its ability to earn foreign currency to Harare.
With $ 149 million in 2017, China is the largest importer of Zimbabwean tobacco, far ahead of South Africa, second with $ 32 million. Other Zimbabwean green leaf destinations include Belgium, Indonesia, Russia, and the United Arab Emirates. One of the main challenges related to tobacco growing, however, is the conservation of the country’s forests. In 2015, Harare introduced a 1.5% tax on the incomes of tobacco producers and buyers, in an attempt to raise funds to fight deforestation.