The 2019 tobacco marketing season officially started yesterday, with Government saying it is working towards developing an infrastructure that supports a thriving and open economy capable of creating new opportunities for investors.
The new thrust would also create more employment and ensure the well-being of people.
This was said by Vice President Kembo Mohadi while officially opening the tobacco marketing season at the Tobacco Sales Floor.
The ceremony was witnessed by Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement Deputy Ministers Vangelis Haritatos and Douglas Karoro, the ministry's permanent secretary Mr Ringson Chitsiko, Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board officials, farmers' unions, farmers and merchants, among others.
VP Mohadi said the Second Republic's priority was the wholesome well-being of every Zimbabwean as the country moves towards achieving an upper middle class economy by 2030, as envisioned by President Mnangagwa.
"Through various interventions as entailed in the Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP), Government will continue to create a conducive environment for growth in this sector as we open up space for private sector investments," he said.
"Government has put in place a policy framework to assist farmers engage in contract farming. This will address the infrastructure gaps and stimulate growth in the tobacco industry.
"I urge the tobacco industry stakeholders to alert Government of any gaps in the regulatory framework for the industry, to guard against irregular trade practices."
Vice President Mohadi called on stakeholders to support various value chains of the industry, especially growers who are the cornerstone of the success registered by the sector.
He denounced corrupt and unpleasant tendencies that disadvantaged tobacco farmers during marketing.
"Tobacco, a crop that was once the preserve of white commercial farmers, is arguably one of the success stories of agriculture and our land reform," he said. "In 2018, a record 252 million kilogrammes was delivered to the auction floors compared to the previous record of 231 million kilogrammes in 2000.
"This is a significant achievement for the country's economy. It is also pleasing that there has been an increase in the number of women farmers that have gone into tobacco production in the past few years.
"The inclusive nature of the industry's growth is commendable and is in line with the pillars of the TSP."
VP Mohadi urged tobacco growers to come up with other income-generating projects to mitigate the effects of emerging unfavourable global market trends.
TIMB chairperson Mrs Monica Chinamasa urged authorities in the tobacco industry to avail requisite marketing information to farmers to ensure a smooth marketing season.
"This marketing season is coinciding with new developments in the economy and calls for greater need for information dissemination to the growers for them to understand issues before they come to market their crop," she said.
"The RBZ and TIMB have jointly put in place payment measures to ensure tobacco growers get full value for their crop and being paid within the shortest possible time."
The marketing season started on a low note, as some farmers adopted a wait-and-see attitude, while others who sold their crop were not happy with the low prices on offer.
The first bale was bought for US$4,50 per kilogramme, which is 40 cents less than the price of the first bale last season.
Some bales were sold at low prices such as US$0,20 per kg.
Activity was low at all the three auction floors -- TSF, Boka Tobacco Floors and Premier Tobacco Floors.
Boka Tobacco Floors operations manager Mr Moses Bias said not all merchants participated on the first day.
Zimbabwe Farmers' Union director Mr Paul Zakariya said the initial price did not guarantee that prices thereafter will follow the same upward trend.
Tobacco Association of Zimbabwe president Mr George Seremwe said not all buyers were participating on the floor, thereby compromising prices.