(180322) -- HARARE, March 22, 2018 (Xinhua) -- Buyers check the quality of tobacco at a market in Harare, Zimbabwe, March 21, 2018. Zimbabwe's 2018 tobacco marketing season opened on March 21 with about 200 million kilogrammes of the golden leaf expected to go under the hammer. (Xinhua/Shaun Jusa)
INTERNATIONAL - Zimbabwe's earnings from tobacco, which were expected to help address the country’s foreign currency woes, have slumped for the first four months of this year as the low quality of this year’s crop drags down prices.

Tobacco is among the biggest forex earners for Zimbabwe and the country exports most of its crop to South Africa, China and America.

Output of the crop has been rebounding over the past years as the agriculture sector recovers from the land reform that displaced white commercial farmers in 2000.

The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board has said that tobacco has earned Zimbabwe about $360million (R4.4billion) so far this year, compared with $424m last year.

“Tobacco farmers have delivered 82.4million kilograms and have earned $236.3m in the process,” it said.

Farmers at some tobacco auction floors in Harare have complained of sluggish payment disbursements in getting funds from the bank.

But state media reports claim the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe is disbursing about $450m daily for payments to tobacco farmers.