Lose lose situation

Zimbabwe is a world tobacco superproducer… but farmers struggle to survive

in depth

This article is part of the dossier:

Africa’s growing Agribusiness


By Michelle Chifamba

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Posted on June 29, 2021 08:58

A woman sorts a bale of tobacco at a processing plant outside Harare
A woman sorts a bale of tobacco at a processing plant outside Harare, Zimbabwe, February 20, 2019. Picture taken February 20, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Zimbabwe is one of the largest producers of tobacco in Africa, exporting $782m in the 2020 season. But while tobacco is making some people rich, the farmers sucked into contract farming at the bottom of the pile are losing money.

Carved on their faces are visible marks of sorrow as they sit patiently outside one of the country’s tobacco auction floors, in Harare. The small-scale farmers lament the meagre earnings they are likely to receive after the tobacco sales.

Many of the small-scale farmers are struggling, impoverished by merchants who lure them into debt through contract farming. After harvest and sales, the farmers – entangled in debt – see all their proceeds go to serving paying off their debts with local contract companies that supply them with farming inputs at the beginning of the season.

“Six months of our hard labour in the tobacco fields, our fate is being negotiated by someone else in the auction floors as we are not allowed to get inside because [of] the prevailing Covid-19 regulations,” 27-year-old Jairos Mufudzi tells The Africa Report.

Farmers get money on the official bank rate while goods are

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