THE 2023 tobacco selling season kicked off Wednesday amid expectations that 230 million kgs of tobacco will be sold this year amid assurances by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) that farmers will retain 85% of their foreign currency earnings.
Last year, sellers were only allowed to retain 75% of their foreign currency earnings but this year, this development, coupled with the fact that the local currency official rate which has closed the gap created by the parallel market rate will not expose growers to yesteryear’s losses.
The highest sale recording US$4,35 per kg signifying a 3,5% increase from last year’s take off price amid anticipation of increased volumes thus year.
Speaking at the official opening of the selling season, TIMB board chairperson, Patrick Davenish said a strict Covid19 prevention protocols will be observed as he shared details indicating remarkable improvements for the season.
“This year’s crop was grown during the early start of the rains .Our register boasts of 148 527 growers planting 117128 hectares of tobacco during the 2022/23 tobacco planting season as compared to 110 000 hectares and 122 000 growers last year.
“We have around 3 283 new growers this season which indicates that we must be doing something right in encouraging new farmers to grow tobacco,” he said.
Davenish said despite experiencing sporadic hailstorms, the golden crop was not widely affected with an increased yield expected in the year.
“Indications are that we should produce 230 million kgs up from 208 million kgs recorded last year. This year 26 A’ Class buyers have been licenced and 34 contracting companies .Sales will be conducted in Bulawayo as well as five decentralised centres which include Karoi ,Mvurwi and Rusape among others ,” he said.
He underscored that farmers must get full value of the crop and be paid within 48 hours after sales completion highlighting that failure to do so will be met by stiff penalties such as suspensions or cancellation of operating licenses.
“Some growers have still not been paid for last year’s sales and plans are in place to make sure that all outstanding amounts are paid by this weekend. Others have outstanding payments to contracting companies so these loans must be paid back to ensure that all players in the tobacco value chain operate profitably,” added Davenish.