The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board has licensed three companies to auction the crop during the coming marketing season. Last season, four companies were buying and selling the golden leaf. TIMB chief executive Dr Andrew Matibiri said that six companies had applied for licences to operate auction floors during the 2012-13 tobacco marketing season but only three had so far been given the nod.
"Tobacco Sales Floor, Boka Tobacco Floors and Premier Tobacco Auction Floor are the three players that have retained their licences," he said.
"As for Millennium Tobacco and others they are still trying to meet the minimum requirements," he said.
Millennium Tobacco was the fourth company operating last season and it appears to be struggling to meet the requirements this year.
The requirements include construction of waiting rooms for farmers and adequate ablution facilities on the premises.
The increase in applications to operate auction floors is in line with the growing number of farmers turning to tobacco production due to its lucrative prices.
Meanwhile, the TIMB said a total of 55 000 growers have registered to produce the golden leaf during the 2012-2013 season.
Data from TIMB shows that more farmers are turning to the golden leaf as it is more lucrative, with its marketing through the auction and contract systems.
Reports indicate that poor prices for cotton have seen many farmers abandoning the crop in favour of tobacco.
Concerns have been raised that the movement towards tobacco would affect production of other crops like the staple maize.