Zim in 2015 tobacco selling season preps

HARARE - Zimbabwe's 2015 tobacco selling season preparations are on course, with auctions widely expected to begin by the traditional mid-February, although the late rains may affect commencement, the Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (TIMB) said.

Andrew Matibiri, the TIMB chief executive, yesterday told businessdaily that in the meantime, the Board awaits the nod from relevant authorities to announce the season’s official commencement date.

“…everything is on course and the season will start at the expected time,” he said, but added that the delayed rains may also affect the decision as to when the season will kick off.

Traditionally, the season officially commences mid-February and ends around early August.

Meanwhile, TIMB statistics have indicated that the number of tobacco farmers who have registered since the year begun has declined compared to that recorded last year.

From January 1 to January 9 2014, 26 444 new growers were recorded while 16 501 have registered in the same period this year.

27 118 communal farmers were registered, 23 262 A1 farmers and 5 537 small scale commercial farmers were recorded by January 9 close of business.

However, a 2, 5 percent collective increase was recorded in the total number of tobacco farmers for the 2014/15 season as compared to last season.

TIMB said the number of growers that were registered for the 2015 tobacco growing season was 88 500 from 85 076 growers in the previous year.

Flue-cured tobacco exports also went down by 700 000 kilogrammes (kg) for the first nine days of the year, compared to the same period last year.

The exports for the period under review stood at 1,3 million kg, a slump from the 2 million kg recorded from January 1 2014 to January 9 2014.

TIMB says while last year’s exports for the same period contributed a total of $6, 5milion compared to $7 million recorded in the prior year.

This year’s crop was sold at an average price of $4, 95 per kg which is higher than the $3, 43 for the last season.

Zimbabwe In 2014-15 targeted to produce nearly 240 million kilogrammes (kg) of on the back of increased cropping. Farmers sold about 216 million kg of the crop, passing the 200 million-kilogram mark for the first time since 2001.

Tobacco production in the southern African country — disrupted by the land reform programme aimed at redistributing land to the landless — is steadily growing.

In 2009 the country produced 58,5 million kg valued at $174,5 million and the figure jumped to 123,5 million kg at $355,7 million in 2010.

Zimbabwe recorded 132,5 million kg of tobacco in 2011, 144,5 million kg in 2012 and 166,5 million kg in 2013 valued at $361,5 million, $540 million and $629 million respectively.

According to industry experts, the resurgence in the sector is being spurred by new farmers joining the tobacco sector since the adoption of the multi-currency system in 2009.

Tobacco is one of the country’s top foreign currency earners and accounts for a tenth of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.

Stakeholders in the tobacco industry believe the increase in production bodes well for the country whose economy is slumping due to a high import bill, deflation, high unemployment, low capacity utilisation and lack of foreign direct investments.

Zimbabwe mainly exports its tobacco to China, South Africa, Belgium, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Egypt, Montenegro and Russia.

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