Zimbabwe's tobacco production hit by heavy rains

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's tobacco crop will fall to 190 million kilograms this year, down from 216 million kilograms in 2014, an official said on Wednesday, as late planting and heavy rains hit production of the country's biggest exporter earner. Andrew Matibiri, general manager of Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board said unusually heavy rainfall in December had hampered production. Zimbabwe's tobacco exports totaled $842 million last year, the bulk going to China, according to central bank data, more than the southern African country earned from platinum, gold or diamonds. Tobacco output has rebounded in the last five years after plunging to an all time low of 48 million kilograms in 2008 at the height of an economic crisis. At the largest auction floor in the capital Harare, farmers on Wednesday walked out in protest against low prices ranging between $0.25 and $3.90 per kg, below last year's average of $5.70 a kg. Zimbabwe is among the top 10 tobacco producers in the world, according to the World Bank, and its crop is used as a flavoring by some leading cigarette manufacturers. (Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Joe Brock)