Tobacco farmers selling their produce at TSF.

ZIMSEC O Level Geography Notes:Agriculture:Farming types in Africa: Tobacco farming in Zimbabwe

Growing conditions and growing area

  • This accounts for 30 % of the country forex earnings and 12% of GDP.
  • It employs over 300 000 people.
  • Region 2 major growing area.
  • Rainfall 700-1000 mm and temperature is 21°C
  • Soils are well drained sandy soils.
  • Plant seeds in nurseries that are fertile.
  • The seedbeds are mulched to retain moisture.
  • Tools are washed in formalin to protect seedlings from diseases and fumigation is also done to kill pests.
  • Ploughed fields are ridged in preparation for transplanting. This is done in September-October.
  • Seedlings are transplanted to the fields and irrigating is done.
  • Weeds are controlled by spraying or physical weeding by hand.
  • Harvesting is done by hand when the crop is ripe.
  • Crop ripens at 2 levels per week, the leaves turn golden in colour.
  • Tractor collects the harvested leaves to a barn.

Processing and marketing

  • Tobacco processing is called curing, which is the controlled removal of moisture from the leaf.
  • Flue curing occurs in barns by use of pipes carrying steam around the barn called flues.
  • The steam in the flues raises barn temperature.
  • Barns are not to be over-packed as heat would not be evenly distributed.
  • Leaves wither slowly and become tender.
  • Sun and fire curing is done on racks in the open.
  • Sorting the leaves is next done on the basis of type, colour, size, texture and blemish.
  • Packing occurs to transport the tobacco to auction floors for sale.
  • About 70 countries pass through tobacco sales floors annually.


  • World anti-tobacco lobby threatening viability of the crop-smoking causes lung cancer and respiratory complications.
  • Competition from other producers notably Brazil and Russia.
  • Unpredictable prices on market.
  • Increasing costs of labour which is now highly unionized.
  • Coal prices are also increasing or there are coal shortages from Hwange.
  • Fertiliser costs are sky-rocketing, affecting not just tobacco farming but the whole agriculture sector.
  • Prolonged rains or very wet seasons reduce quality and output.

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