Tobacco seed sales drop by 19 percent

Flue-cured tobacco seed sales have dropped by 19 percent from 352kg last year to 295 kg. The Zimbabwe Tobacco Association estimates that a total of 41 300 ha, about 50 percent of the recent five-year average, will be planted in the 2002-03 production season.

Yields are expected to fall 23 percent, with production for 2002-03 production year declining to 70 000 tonnes, 34 percent of the recent national five-year average and 41 percent of last year's estimated harvest of 170 000 tonnes.

The projected fall is mainly the result of a forecast drop of 78 percent in the area planted by the large-scale tobacco sector which used to be 72 700 ha.

Flue-cured tobacco contributes about 29 percent of total export earnings and 9 percent to gross domestic product.

Production could also be affected by shortage of inputs. There is a shortage of both basal and top dressing fertilisers.

A total of 600 000 tonnes of NPK fertiliser and 420 000 tonnes of ammonium fertiliser is required but only about 262 000 tonnes of NPK and 140 000 tonnes ammonium could be produced between now and March 2003.

One of the major reasons for the current shortage is the shortage of transport to move phosphate from Dorowa to fertiliser companies in Harare.

The shortage of foreign currency is hampering the importation of calcium, while the ammonium nitrate manufactured at Sable Chemicals is not adequate. The company is only able to produce two-thirds of the nitrogen required.

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