THE Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) has deferred the 2016 marketing season of the crop to a date to be announced citing delays in planting.
Traditionally, Zimbabwe’s tobacco selling season begins in February. Last year, the tobacco selling season began on March 4 due to similar reasons.
TIMB chief executive officer Andrew Matibiri said the late planting was due to late rains.
“We’re still waiting for the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development to approve the date the tobacco marketing season for this year should begin. Because the planting season started late due to late rains the country received, this year’s tobacco selling season has been delayed and we’re optimistic that the selling season will not start anytime this month,” said Matibiri.
He said at the moment a majority of the tobacco crop was still in the fields.
Statistics from TIMB show that 92,160 hectares had been put under tobacco as at January 22, 2016.
The figure compares negatively to 107,546 ha recorded during the same period in the previous season.
The golden leaf is grown in eight regions namely Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland West, Manicaland, Mashonaland East, Matabeleland North, Masvingo, Matabeleland South and the Midlands.
Over the years, the tobacco industry has been one of the critical sectors in the country’s economy boosting liquidity supply since February 2009 when Zimbabwe adopted a multicurrency system.
Latest data from TIMB shows that the country has so far earned $190 million from 25.2 million kilogrammes of tobacco exported since the beginning of the year.
During the same period last year, the country raked in $181,3 million from 23.4 million kilogrammes tobacco exports.
In 2015, Zimbabwe’s tobacco export earnings increased to $867 million compared to $772,5 million achieved the previous year.
Presenting the 2016 national budget in November, Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa alluded to the importance of agriculture and the need to ensure that farmers including those in the tobacco sector were adequately financed.
Farmers whose financial requirements for the 2015/16 summer cropping season amount to about $1.7 billion would be financed through credit from the banking sector and support arrangements from the government.