ZIMBABWE's 2012 tobacco exports raked in US$771 million averaging US$5,94 per kilogramme, the highest annual average export price achieved since dollarisation, the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board has said.
TIMB chief executive Dr Andrew Matibiri yesterday said in 2011 slightly more than 144 million kilogrammes of the golden leaf that were exported earned the country US$730 million at the average price of US$5,06 per kilogramme.
"There is still a further 95,3 million kilogrammes of tobacco in our stocks so the earnings are set to rise even higher once everything is marketed. The exports have, however, trended down from 17 million kilogrammes in November to seven million kilogrammes in December.
"In 2011, a total of 10 million kilogrammes were exported during the same period with the seasonal exports ending with 129,7 million kilogrammes, which is 10 percent below the 2012 levels. More than 42 percent of the tobacco went to China," Dr Matibiri said.
Dr Matibiri added that the annual stock reconciliation that would be concluded towards the end of January this year would reveal the exact national stock position.
He added that tobacco earnings looked set to increase further this year with the country targeting to produce 170 million kilogrammes of the crop.
"Already we have registered 65 199 farmers for this year's crop compared to last year's 34 673 farmers during the same period. We have also registered 1 225 farmers for burley tobacco while another 499 have been registered for dark air cured tobacco," he said.
Marketing of the 2012 irrigated tobacco is expected to start early next month with 32 buyers having applied for licences by December 31, 2012.
Dr Matibiri said 17 buyers had applied for auction floor buying while the other 15 had applied for contract floor buying.
"We are still processing their applications and we expect to conclude the process within the next few days. We will also start inspection of floors soon. This time around we have licenced three floors only -- Boka Tobacco Floors, Tobacco Sales Floor and Premier Tobacco Floors.
"The fourth, Millennium Tobacco Floors is yet to complete the registration and licencing process after encountering some challenges," he said.
MTF acting chief executive, Mr Thomas Nherera, however, said his company was ironing out a few issues and would soon secure the licence and would also be buying tobacco.
"We will be operating at least four auction floors and will also be providing transport to farmers at affordable rates of between US$6 and US$8 per bale with the highest charge not exceeding US$10 for the furthest distances," he said.
TSF operations executive Mr Sammy Gutura said they were ready and waiting for the farmers to start coming.
"Everything is almost in place. We are putting the final touches to all structures. We will be adding another two floors to the three we used last season while we have also increased space for all the other services at the same time.
"We will also pitch a tent that can accommodate 5 000 people to provide farmers with shed during daytime," he said.
BTF chief executive Ms Rudo Boka said more needed to be done on the pricing structures.
"There should be parity between prices offered at the auction floors and those offered at the contract floors to allow farmers to enjoy the same benefits.
"Tobacco should empower all farmers equally, they are producing the crop under difficult circumstances and must be rewarded handsomely," she said.
She also added that contract farming should empower farmers to produce on their own.
Ms Boka said that the auction system that is used for the marketing of tobacco represents a genuine system of the free market that should leave farmers empowered.