Some farmers have abandoned tobacco farming and opted for other cash crops such as cotton and maize due to a myriad of challenges especially around the marketing of the “golden leaf”.
The major drawback has been falling tobacco prices at the auctions floors, with a significant number of farmers briefly suspending deliveries and sales just a few days before the opening of the 2019 marketing season in protest.
According to the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB), by November 29, 2019, a total of 140 257 farmers had registered to grow tobacco for the 2019-20 season. This translates to a 15 per cent decline from last season’s 165 130 farmers.
Furthermore, the number of farmers registering for the first time to grow tobacco had fallen by 80 per cent from 36 117 farmers in 2018 to the current 7 355.
Dryland tobacco farming has also been negatively impacted, with a total of 23 365 hectares having been planted as of now, while last year a total of 25 665 hectares had been planted during the same period last year.