Tobacco marketing season opens mid-March

16 Feb, 2024 - 00:02 0 Views
Tobacco marketing season opens mid-March This season farmers across the country planted 113 101 hectares, compared to 117 645ha last season

The ManicaPost


Samuel Kadungure
Senior Reporter

IRRIGATED tobacco growers in Manicaland are now grading their flue cured golden leaf in preparation for the 2024 marketing season which opens on March 13 for the traditional auction floors, while contract floors will open the following day.

Depressed volumes of tobacco are anticipated this season following a significant reduction in both the number of growers and planted area due to the El Nino phenomenon which resulted in poor rains.

The low rainfall forced those without irrigation muscle to scale down or stop planting the crop, resulting in a minus four percent drop in the planted area when compared to the same period last season.

Tobacco farming is a labour-intensive venture whose rich pickings are entirely hinged on the quality of the leaf, and the poor rains are blamed for the reduced uptake and planted areas as farmers feared for a complete write-off of the crop.

According to the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB), 115 114 growers were registered this season across the country, compared to 148 300 growers last year.

This season farmers across the country planted 113 101 hectares, compared to 117 645ha last season, giving a negative variance of four percent.

In Manicaland, a total of 19 795ha were put under tobacco this season — with 5 100ha (irrigated) and 14 695ha dryland, compared to 20 921ha last season, giving a negative variance of five percent.

The majority of tobacco growers in the province are communal (7 666), A1 (7 461), small-scale commercial farmers 1 233 and 833 A2 farmers — giving a total of 17 194 growers, compared to 23 783 last season, thereby giving a negative variance of 28 percent.

Communal, A1 and small-scale commercial farmers, who account for the bulk of the tobacco output in Manicaland, lack irrigation capacity and rely on rain-fed farming.

Only A2 can irrigate the crops.

The bulk of the tobacco is grown in Makoni, Mutare and Mutasa districts.

About 91 percent of the 2024 registered growers are contracted.

Announcing the opening of the tobacco marketing season, a statement issued by TIMB encouraged tobacco stakeholders to fully utilise the TIMB booking system.

“All stakeholders are advised that the 2024 auction tobacco marketing season opens on Wednesday, March 13, 2024. Contract tobacco sales will begin on Thursday, March 14, 2024. All tobacco stakeholders are encouraged to fully utilise the TIMB booking system. Book your tobacco today and sell it tomorrow,” reads the statement.

TIMB also announced that growers will be paid 75 percent of their earnings in foreign currency while the remainder will be in local currency.

Last season farmers were paid 85 percent of their earnings in hard currency and 15 percent in local currency.

“For this season, RBZ advised that the foreign currency retention for tobacco growers for the 2023/24 tobacco marketing season was standardised at 75 percent.

“This effectively means that 25 percent will be paid to tobacco growers in local currency,” said TIMB.

TIMB spokesperson, Mrs Chelesani Tsarwe said the regulating board is working on a coterie of measures, including cholera prevention, to ensure a smooth flowing marketing system.

Mrs Tsarwe said tobacco growers should utilise the booking system where sales will be done a day after booking to avoid congestion.

TIMB is also urging tobacco growers whose tobacco bales were ready prior to the marketing season so shun side marketing.

However, tobacco unions that spoke to The Manica Post decried the 75 percent foreign currency threshold saying it is not in line with the cost of production which is wholly in foreign currency.

Tobacco Farmers Union Trust (TFUT) president, Mr Victor Mariranyika said farming is a serious business, and tobacco growers deserve meaningful profits to enable them to service loans, fix broken equipment, maintain farm infrastructure, purchase inputs for the next season and machinery to improve the next crop.

He said this season may turn out to be probably one of the worst for the bulk of small-scale tobacco farmers whose crop has dropped in both yield and quality.

A survey conducted by The Manica Post revealed that while the hectarage under tobacco decreased in proportion to the decreased number of growers, the final nail was the absence of sufficient rain from the period of transplanting to date.

Mr Shupikai Mvurumutiya of Chikundu, Odzi, said the quality of tobacco for most small-holder farmers is poor.

“It is not looking good and a bit far below the standards witnessed last season. We are not seeing the kind of tobacco leaf we are used to in Odzi. We can only talk of a good leaf to those farmers who either planted early, have irrigation facilities or those who planted their crop near vleis,” he said.


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