Elita Chikwati Senior Agriculture Reporter
Tobacco deliveries for the 2021 marketing season have surpassed the 200 million kilogramme mark as sales continue at the contract floors.
According to the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board’s latest statistics, farmers have delivered a cumulative 202, 2 million kilogrammes of tobacco valued at US$567 million.
This is an increase from the 178, 9 million kilogrammes worth US$447 that had been sold by farmers during the same period last year.
The tobacco sector has set a target of 210 million kilogrammes with the TIMB confident that the deliveries can surpass the figure. The 2021 selling season officially closed last week although business is still continuing at the contract floors.
The flue-cured auction tobacco clean up sale for the 2021 marketing season will be held on August 5. Depending on the volumes delivered, the clean-up sale may be continued for more than one day and until all delivered tobacco has been sold.
TIMB chief executive, Mr Meanwell Gudu said indications were that tobacco deliveries will slightly surpass the 200 million kilogramme target.
“We will slightly go above 200 million kilogrammes. From the information we have gathered commercial farmers are still delivering, some big contractors also still have significant volumes still to be accounted for,” he said.
Some farmers said the auction floors had closed early as they still had tobacco at their farms.
According to the Second Crop and Livestock Assessment report for the 2020/21 season Tobacco production is expected to increase by eight percent from 184 042 tonnes produced last year to 200 245 tonnes in the current season.
Farmers planted 125 176 hectares of tobacco during the 2020/21 season, an increase from the 117 976 hectares last season. The bulk of the crop was this season sold through the contract floors.
This promoted Government to create a Tobacco Production Localisation Revolving Fund with an initial injection of US$60 million from Treasury to support growers during the forthcoming season.
The seed money is set to fund production 60 million kilogrammes of tobacco during the 2021/22 season. Auction floors deal with less than 6,5 percent of the crop while contracts floors receive almost 93,5 percent.
Most farmers are growing tobacco under contract farming where they are assured of funding, usually get some back-up and in previous years obtained higher prices from contractors than those selling on the auction floors.