FARMERS have collectively earned US$15,4 million from the sale of tobacco under both the auction and contract systems since the opening of the 2013 tobacco selling season two weeks ago. This is down from the US$18,4 million worth of tobacco sold during the same period last year.
Statistics from the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board indicate that so far 4,7 million kg have gone under the hammer, at an average a price of US$3,29 per kg. This is a decrease of 8 percent from the 5,2 million kg sold at the same time last year at an average price of US$3,58 per kg.
Auction sales have continued to dominate, with over 3 million kg sold, while 1,7 million kg has been sold under contract sales.
Tobacco Sales Floor has sold the most tobacco, accounting for 700 696kg worth US$2,2 million, followed by Boka Tobacco Floor, with 554 631kg worth US$1,7 million, while Premier Tobacco Floor has sold 482 194kg worth US$1,4 million.
So far, 4 791 bales have been rejected compared with 4 416 for the same period last season. Bales are usually rejected for being overweight, underweight, mouldy or mixed hands (leaves from different grades).
Tobacco has become a crop of choice for most small-scale farmers, with more than 80 percent of the crop coming from this sector.
According to the TIMB, 68 006 farmers have registered this season compared with 38 001 registered by the same period last year.
Of the 68 006 registered growers, 29 242 are from the A1 sector, 26 990 communal, 6 510 small-scale and 5 264 A2 farmers. Officially opening the marketing season, Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere attributed the massive interest and increase in the grower base to a perceived established reliable and consistent financing and marketing model of auction and contract farming.
He said the reason why tobacco was doing well was, not only because tobacco prices were lucrative, but also due to the marketing systems of the crop.
"In my view, tobacco marketing is highly liberalised, allowing farmers to benefit directly from the market forces," he said.
A total of 170 million kg are expected to be sold this season, compared to the 144 million kg sold last season. Zimbabwe is slowly regaining its status as one of the world's leading tobacco producers, as many farmers have abandoned maize and cotton in favour of the golden leaf.