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Bumper Crop Gives Harare Hope

Zimbabwe has reported record tobacco sales as the southern African nation reestablishes itself as one of the leading growers in the world, and yet the small-scale Black farmers now selling their crop mostly to China are “heavily indebted” and seeing “minimal” benefits, according to an association that represents their interests. Critics say the farmers are not benefitting as they should from Zimbabwe’s tobacco boom, largely because of a contract system that locks them into unfavorable loans and prices, often with Chinese companies operating under the state-owned China National Tobacco Corporation, the largest cigarette maker in the world. China buys most of Zimbabwe’s tobacco to feed its huge market. While other companies and local merchants are also involved in the contract system in Zimbabwe, it is dominated by Chinese firms and their agents.