By Alois Vinga
THE 2023 tobacco selling season kicked off Wednesday with 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.
Speaking at the official opening of the selling season, TIMB board chairperson, Patrick Davenish said 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 licensed 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.
Guest of honour at the event, Vice President, Constantino Chiwenga hailed growers for contributing significantly to the national purse.
“I am delighted to note that tobacco production has rebounded significantly since the launch of the land reform programme in 2000. For instance, Zimbabwe produced 211 million kilogrammes of tobacco in 2021 and 212 million kilograms in 2022.
“The second republic’s policy thrust led to the all- time high tobacco production of 261 million kilograms in 1998,” he said.