A woman operates a cart carrying bales of tobacco at the Tobacco Auction Floors in Harare, Zimbabwe, March 9, 2023.(Photo by Tafara Mugwara/Xinhua)
by Tafara Mugwara
HARARE, March 12 (Xinhua) -- After a long journey from a farming region, Shylet Muzveba was waiting impatiently in a truck here to offload her bales at the Tobacco Auction Floors.
She then breathed a great sigh of relief after finally arriving at the unloading bay. She said she will soon reap the harvest after months of toiling in the fields.
Muzveba is one of thousands of small-scale farmers who have chosen to grow the high-reward golden leaf. But for now, her biggest worry is the selling price, as she is not under contract farming, Muzveba told Xinhua.
"This year we harvested a top-quality crop. We received enough rainfall, so we are expecting good pricing so that we will be able to buy inputs for the coming season," Muzveba said.
Tobacco is Zimbabwe's largest agricultural export earner and the second-largest commodity export earner after gold.
The first kilogram this year was sold for 4.35 U.S. dollars compared to 4.20 dollars last year.
Muzveba said she prizes the lucrative crop after having farmed it for five years.
"I used to grow cotton and maize but stopped so that I can cultivate tobacco, which brings more returns," she said.
"I realized that with tobacco farming I get my money at once, and I can plan for my life, build my house, take care of my family and send my children to school with the proceeds from tobacco," she told Xinhua.
Zimbabwe is projected to produce 230 million kg of tobacco this year, up from 212 million kg last year following good rains and increased hectarage.
The country aims to increase the level of value addition from the current 2 percent to 30 percent by 2025, said Zimbabwe's Vice President Constantino Chiwenga on March 8 when the 2023 tobacco marketing season began.
Another farmer, Sandra Takavata, also jumped ship after realizing how rewarding the farming of tobacco was.
"We used to cultivate corn and beans, but due to erratic rainfall patterns, we realized that those who grew tobacco were getting more returns," she told Xinhua, adding that she has been growing the crop since 2016.
"Farming tobacco is beneficial -- as a woman, considering the economic environment, if I grow tobacco I can educate my children, I can help my husband put food on the table, pay school fees and buy other necessities," Takavata said.
Plaxedes Murumbe, another farmer, also praised tobacco as a game changer for her.
"During the beginning, I was struggling, I had nothing, but with tobacco I managed to buy residential land in the city," Murumbe said.
"I bought a grinding mill and irrigation equipment, all because of tobacco farming," she said.