Zimbabwe's 2019 tobacco marketing season commences on Wednesday next week according to the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) amid high expectations the golden leaf will boost foreign currency inflows.
Traditionally, the marketing season kicks off in February, but was delayed this year due to late planting resulting from late rains experienced in the country.
The dry spell, which most parts of the country experienced since the beginning of the rainy season, also saw many farmers planting several weeks after normal time.
The normal tobacco planting time is between September 1 and December 31. According to TIMB's crop assessment survey carried around the country's tobacco planting regions, the crop situation was "fair" with good yields expected.
In a notice today the industry regulator said sales bookings will commence on March 13, 2019, while deliveries are accepted from March 18.
"All stakeholders are advised that the 2019 Auction Tobacco Marketing Season opens on Wednesday March 20, 2019.
"Contract Tobacco Sales will be opened on Thursday March 21, 2019. Sales bookings will open on Wednesday March 13, 2019 and deliveries accepted as from Monday March 18, 2019," said TIMB.
Tobacco is the country's largest foreign currency earner. The country's foreign currency situation normally improves during the tobacco marketing season.
With Zimbabwe experiencing crippling foreign currency shortages, which has seen the country struggling to import adequate essential commodities such as fuel and medical drugs, inflows from the crop will improve the situation.
Now dominated by small-scale growers who benefited under the land reform programme since 2000, the sector produced 252 million kilograms of the golden leaf in the last season, the highest output in the history of Zimbabwe.
This year, the Government said tobacco farmers will be paid 50 percent of their produce in forex.
Tobacco is a top foreign currency earner and all export industries are now permitted to run foreign currency accounts. While the actual exports are done by the tobacco merchants who buy the crop from the farmers, the partial payment is seen as a way of ensuring farmers are able in buy imported inputs.
Tobacco farmers had warned failure by the Government to partly pay them in foreign currency could hurt production of Zimbabwe's single largest foreign currency earner.