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Zimbabwe’s tobacco farmers make last deliveries as auction season ends

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By XINHUA

Early morning on the last day of Zimbabwe’s tobacco auction season, trucks carrying tobacco bales waited to offload the crop at the Tobacco Auction Floors in the capital Harare.

Trucks carrying tobacco bales wait to deliver the crop at the Tobacco Auction Floors in Harare, Zimbabwe, on July 19, 2022.

The tobacco auction season, which started in March, closed on Wednesday, with more than 180 million kg of the golden leaf having been sold at an average price of 3.04 dollars per kg.

On the waiting bays, the farmers, who had braved the mid-winter chilly morning could be seen anxiously waiting for their crop to finally go under the hummer before the curtain came down on the season.

“This season was okay, although not as good as last year,” said Tafadzwa Mugwagwa, a small-scale farmer from Rusape, a farming region southeast of Harare.

“We experienced erratic rainfall, there was a dry spell and the rains were late. The crop was affected when we applied fertilizers but it picked again when the rains came, that’s why the crop wasn’t auctioned on time,” he told Xinhua.

The auction season, which started in March, closed on Wednesday, with more than 180 million kg of the golden leaf having been sold at an average price of 3.04 dollars per kg.

However, due to the significant volumes that are still being received, the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB), said contract sales will continue until further notice. A mop-up sale will be conducted on August 17.

While most farmers had already delivered their crops to the auction floors before the end of the selling season, many farmers from Manicaland Province said they are yet to bring all their crops to the market.

“We haven’t brought all the crops to the market, we still have tobacco crops back home because we didn’t finish harvesting on time. We were still curing tobacco in June,” said Dorothy Chigwededza, a tobacco farmer.

The golden leaf is considered by many small-scale farmers in the country to be a viable way to escape poverty.

Zimbabwe’s tobacco industry is dominated by smallholder farmers who contribute more than 50 percent of the country’s yearly produce.

What makes the crop more attractive to smallholder farmers is that 75 percent of their sales proceeds are paid in foreign currency which makes investing possible given the high inflation rate in the country.