ZIMBABWE’S tobacco selling season opened on Tuesday with 77 million kilograms expected to be sold, almost double the 42 million kilograms shifted last year.
The Tobacco Sales Floor and Zimbabwe Tobacco Auction Centre in Harare will open twice a week on Tuesday and Friday.
Farmers are expecting better prices this year as Zimbabwe seeks to re-establish its place among the world’s leading tobacco producers after a decade of decline, partly caused by the government’s seizure of white-owned commercial farmland for redistribution to landless blacks.
Analysts say a slump in production in Brazil, the world’s third largest tobacco producer after China and India, will push up prices.
So important tobacco has become to Zimbabwe’s ailing economy that last year, it contributed 26 percent of the GDP. The figure will be much higher this year, say analysts.
The Zimbabwe government is pushing commercial banks to avail loans to farmers. Only one bank, the Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe, extended loans of up to US$120 million in the last season.
The acting Agriculture Minister Ignatius Chombo last week made an appeal for large-scale contract tobacco buyers to provide financing for the next season.
“The need to formulate strategies to rapidly increase production and productivity levels and to regain the lost market share cannot therefore be overemphasised,” Chombo said.