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>> It may be bad for your health, but tobacco is lighting up the Zimbabwean economy. On auction floors like this one, farmers have sold more tobacco this year than ever before. That's important because next week Zimbabwe holds its first election in the post-Robert Mugabe era. One of the main issues is a severe lack of US dollars, something that could now be eased by tobacco's success.
The boom is also good news for farmers like 28-year-old Simbise.>> It's something that actually can really change my life.>> In a country where jobs are as scarce as dollars, she went looking for a good income in the tobacco fields.>> If I manage to get some, a lot of money, like this season, I've been able to get $3000.
I can survive the whole, I can even buy another input to go back and plough again.>> According to the most recent UN data, Zimbabwe was the world's sixth biggest exporter of tobacco in 2016, behind countries including China, Brazil, and the US. But it has a troubled history.
>> The Mugabe-backed violent farm invasions that began in 2000 caused an economic collapse, including in tobacco output. But since 2008, sales have soared, and according to official data out Friday, hit an all-time high of 260,000 tons in the current season. The seizures of white-owned farms were condemned around the world, but they did leave a legacy.
>> Three, five, five, dollar, five.>> Pre-2000, the industry was dominated by around 4,000 predominantly white farmers. Today it's 111,000 small scale farmers, according to the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board.>> The change of profile of the grower has been very, very beneficial to the industry. It has allowed more people, more households to benefit from the very lucrative crop.
And it has also put Zimbabwe tobacco production in line with the rest of the world.>> If Zimbabwe's election is judged free and fair by the international community, it's hoped that that could unlock foreign investment. But for the time being, it's Zimbabwe's green gold that could provide those vital greenbacks.