THE Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) has urged farmers to deliver their crop thrice a week at the auction floors as the marketing season heads towards closure.
BY FIDELITY MHLANGA
According to the TIMB, the golden crop marketing season is about to end, but the official closing date will be announced in due course.
“All growers are encouraged to speed up grading and deliveries to the auction floors. With immediate effect, licensed floors will open for three days a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday until Friday August 28, 2020. Thereafter auction floor sales will be done as advised by the auction floors once they have booked and received sizeable number of bales to constitute a sale,” TIMB said in statement last week.
Under normal circumstances, sales are conducted during the five working days.This year’s tobacco marketing season commenced on April 29 after several deferments as authorities grappled with measures to contain the spread of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Latest figures show that a total of 169,2 million kg of tobacco valued at US$420 million had been delivered as of day 73 of the sale.This is against 214,5 million kg valued at US$414,9 delivered during the corresponding period last year.
The average tobacco price was US$2,14 per kg against US$1,93 per kg offered during the same period last year.This year, there were 31 contract floors registered to buy tobacco and three auction floors.
Established in 1936 through the Tobacco Marketing and Levy Act, the auction floor system was for years the only platform where tobacco was sold in Zimbabwe before the contract system made its debut in Zimbabwe in 2004 and has been gaining ground ahead of the auction floors.
Since the commencement of the selling season late April, farmers have been getting 50% of their earnings at a fixed rate of US$1:$25 at a time the parallel market rate has been running amok.
Currently, the official rate is at US$1: $82,5.As such, farmer associations have been lobbying in vain to be paid fully in hard currency with some pushing authorities to effect an exchange difference payment at an agreed rate.
Tobacco is one of the country’s top forex earners which has helped shore up proceeds needed for the importation of industrial raw materials, fuel and pharmaceuticals, among others.
Previously a preserve for white commercial farmers, tobacco farming in Zimbabwe has over the years grown to become the mainstay for smallholder and subsistence farmers, providing a source of livelihood for most of the country’s rural population.