Flue-cured tobacco worth US$227 million has been sold at the country's auction floors as deliveries increase ahead of the Independence and Easter holidays. Many farmers want to sell their crop before auction floors close from April 18 to 21.
Long queues of lorries laden with tobacco bales were the order of the day at auction floors in Harare yesterday.
Statistics from the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board show that 72 million kilogrammes of the golden leaf have been sold since February, with auction floors handling 23 million kg and contract floors accounting for 49 million kg.
The Tobacco Sales Floor is laying around 8 800 bales per day, Boka Tobacco Floors 4 600 bales and Premier Tobacco Floors 4 800 bales.
The highest price paid at the auction floors remains US$4,99 per kg.
TIMB chief executive Dr Andrew Matibiri said, "This season tobacco prices are a bit depressed than the previous season," attributing this to a lower crop quality.
Boka Tobacco Floors operations manager Mr Moses Bias said the quality of crop being delivered was steadily improving.
"We have had an increase in the deliveries. We are now at the peak period," he added.
Premier Tobacco Floors managing director Mr Philemon Mangena said some farmers were delivering their crop to the floors without having made prior booking arrangements.
"Most farmers want to sell their crop before the holidays. Those who would have booked before coming to the floors will not wait in the queues, but deliver their crop as they come."
Farmers were expectedly divided on the fairness of prices on offer.
"A good crop fetches a high price while a low quality crop will have a low price. The prices are fair," said Raffingora farmer, Mr Andrew Sabau.
Hurungwe farmer Mrs Enedy Chinheya differed, saying: "The prices are discouraging. I got US$2 per kg and I am very disappointed."
Around 180 million kg of tobacco are expected to be sold at the auction floors this season.