The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Tobacco Sales Surpass Last Season

THE volume of flue-cured tobacco sold so far has surpassed last season's cumulative output.

This is the third time in eight years that tobacco volumes have hit the 100 million kg mark, an indication that Zimbabwe is regaining its status as one of the leading tobacco producers in the world.

By Monday 132,7 million kg of the golden leaf had been sold.

Last year, the tobacco-selling season ended on August 18 after 125 selling days.

A total of 132,4 million kg were sold last season with the contract market accounting for 56 percent of the sales.

The continuous increase in tobacco production has been attributed to an increase of the number of tobacco growers. High prices being offered for tobacco has also attracted many farmers to grow the crop.

Resettled farmers claim 43 percent of the tobacco sold so far.

Farmers have described tobacco farming as one of the viable enterprises although they bemoaned that buyers formed a cartel and held the highest price at US$4,99 per kilogramme.

Meanwhile, deliveries at the auction floors have continued to decline.

Auction floors have applied to the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board to have the selling season cut while others want auction days reduced from five to three per week.

Millennium Tobacco Floor spokes-person, Ms Kudzayi Hamadziripi, said indications were that most farmers have already sold their crop.

"We have applied to the TIMB to allow us to operate three days a week to cut operational costs," she said.

Ms Hamadziripi said the increase in the number of auction floors has resulted in the floors getting less deliveries of tobacco compared to last season. Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board chief executive Dr Andrew Matibiri said the board was yet to announce the tobacco selling season closing date.

"We are expecting a few million kilogrammes and at the moment I can not give estimates on the total volumes we will get at the end of the season," he said.

Dr Matibiri said the TIMB board was going to conduct a meeting to consider auction floor applications.

About 150 million kilogrammes of tobacco are expected to go under the hammer this season. The target according to some experts may not be realised as the crop was affected by drought.

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