Oliver Kazunga, Acting Business Editor
THE Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) says opening of the 2018 selling season is likely to delay due to the late onset of the rains as most of the crop is still in the fields.
Under normal circumstances, at this time of the year, most of the farmers would be harvesting and curing their crop ahead of the marketing season.
Traditionally, the selling season starts mid-February or early March.
Last year, the tobacco marketing season opened on March 15 with TIMB licensing three auction floors and 19 contract buyers.
In an interview yesterday, TIMB chief executive officer Dr Andrew Matibiri said:
“The date for this year’s tobacco selling season has not yet been announced as stakeholders are yet to meet to discuss issues relating to marketing. This is because most of the crop is still in the fields due to the late onset of the rains.
“We will only be able to have a date for the start of the marketing season when farmers are ready with their crop”.
Following concerns by stakeholders in the tobacco sector, auctioning of the golden leaf would be decentralised to three floors in Rusape, Mvurwi and Karoi.
Among others, the decentralisation of tobacco auctioning is expected to curb congestion at the sales floors in Harare as well as promoting business development in other areas where decentralisation has been taken to.
Tobacco is one of Zimbabwe’s major foreign currency earners which last year generated $904 million in export receipts, down from $933 million in 2016.
Following the liquidity challenges facing the economy since 2009 as a result of the adoption of a multi-currency system, the tobacco sector has been pivotal in improving liquidity in the economy.
The Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) has recognized the tobacco selling season as a period when the country’s cash crisis situation improves allowing manufacturers of critical raw materials to access foreign currency to import critical raw materials.
Meanwhile, latest statistics from TIMB show that as of last week the number of registered tobacco farmers in the 2017/18 cropping season had risen by 40 percent to 113 530 from 81 172 during the comparable period last year.
As of January 4, TIMB also revealed that the figure of registered new growers was up by 129 percent to 32 622 compared to 14 231 during the same period last year.
As of January 3, 2018 tobacco export figures from TIMB were indicating that 495 000 kilogrammes valued $1.4 million at an average price of $2.92 a kg had been exported to five countries which are South Africa, Belgium, Germany, Indonesia and Vietnam.
During the corresponding period last year, 297 000 kg were exported generating $1.4 million at an average price of $4.63 a kg. — @okazunga.