THE 2013 tobacco marketing season is set to begin on February 13 with auction sales while contract sales will start a day later. Only three floors - Tobacco Sales Floor Limited, Boka Tobacco Auction Floor and Premier Tobacco Auction Floors - have been licensed to buy tobacco from farmers while Millennium Tobacco Auction Floors did not meet TIMB's requirements.
Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board chief executive Dr Andrew Matibiri said they were expecting good quality crop owing to the rains that have been falling in the country since mid-December.
He added that the weather conditions that have prevailed since December are likely to improve the quality of tobacco that will be brought in to auction floors when the selling season starts.
"In some cases, however, the crop might have a bit of moisture owing to the heavy rainfall and this might affect the quality," Dr Matibiri said.
Dr Matibiri said tobacco prices for this season are not expected to to be very different from those of last season, which averaged US$3,74 per kg.
He said demand for Zimbabwe's tobacco was still growing and all the tobacco that was brought in by farmers last year had already found buyers.
The 2012 farming season saw 71 316 registering as flue-cured tobacco farmers. Small-scale farmers growing an average of 1,3 hectares constituted 80 percent of this number.
A total of 144,5 million kilogrammes of flue-cured tobacco was sold last year, with contract sales accounting for 63,95 percent of total sales and individual sales accounting for the remainder.
In 2012, US$527,6 million was paid out to growers compared to US$361,4 million in 2011, representing a 46 percent increase in earnings to growers.
Burley tobacco raked in US$136 123 in sales at an average price of US$2,17 per kg while dark air-cured tobacco was sold at an average of US$1,54 per kg.
TIMB has said it is expecteing 170 million kg of the golden leaf to be brought to auction floors this season.
TIMB has said that the 2012 tobacco selling season was affected by side marketing.
"Side marketing discourages investors from supporting the industry and it is important to find solutions to this problem.
This year, we have restricted the number of contractors to one per farmer so no one with multiple conractors will be accepted.
"We have been educating the farmers on the effects of side marketing and discouraged them from this practice.
"We have also stopped the registration of contracted farmers who came after the deadline of December 31 to make sure we minimise the effects of side marketing," he added.
Dr Matibiri urged farmers to book their tobacco in advance to avoid delays that have characterised the auction floors in previous years.
He said farmers should also complete the submission of their production estimates before bringing their tobacco.