Tuesday, January 15, 2013

(SUNDAY MAIL ZW) TIMB finds foreign buyer for local burley tobacco

TIMB finds foreign buyer for local burley tobacco
Sunday, 13 January 2013 00:00
Agriculture Reporter

Zimbabwe has secured a foreign buyer for its burley tobacco under a long-term arrangement expected to significantly boost earnings from the crop.The country failed to attract buyers for the tobacco flavour in 2011 while only one buyer purchased the crop from one out of four centres last year.

In an interview last week, Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) chief executive officer Dr Andrew Matibiri said the board has already licensed the buyer.

Dr Matibiri would not be drawn into revealing the identity of the purchaser but indicated the company was based in Southern Africa.

“Burley tobacco marketing will kick off at the same time as flue-cured tobacco marketing since we have licensed a consistent buyer, who is also a processor,” he said.

“Although the buyer is purchasing our crop, they indicated that their market is interested in burley tobacco that has more nicotine than the one we have in Zimbabwe.

“We hope to work on the crop in future.”

Tobacco Research Board acting general manager Dr Dahlia Garwe said many prospective buyers were interested in the crop.

“We are pleased to have identified buyers in the region who are interested in burley. The demand is so high that we may not be able to meet it,” said Dr Garwe.

“However, our current variety has less nicotine than they require. So, we are researching on how we can increase the nicotine content.

“We also need to come up with a variety that has a stock that is easy to cut from the stem during ripping. This will help growers reduce their labour force.”

Burley is air-cured and survives in dry conditions unlike flue-cured tobacco. The two types of the crop are differentiated by their genetic composition.

In 2011, the TIMB failed to secure a buyer for burley tobacco, resulting in farmers being turned back with their crop.

Last year, production declined drastically after most growers abandoned the flavour.

The country sold only 62 713kg compared to the 426 407kg sold during the same period in 2011.

According to the TIMB, burley tobacco hectarage is expected to increase from 16,7 hectares in the previous season to 144,2 hectares this season.

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