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Positive Start For The Tobacco Selling Season

By Senior Reporter

The 2023 tobacco selling season officially opened last week by Vice President, Constentino G. Chiwenga at the Tobacco Sales Floor in a high positive note with farmers expecting government to do better this year.

The tobacco marketing season opened much earlier than before probably to give citizens enough time to also prepare for elections and other activities.

This is an early Christmas for whole economy as it looks forward to the opening of the floors and handsomely pays farmers so that it feeds into the circular economy. The crop is the major foreign currency earner.

Vice President C.G Chiwenga officially opening the tobacco marketing season at TSF in Harare last week. Pic by Faith Chimutsa

Majority of the citizens in the business, industry and commercial sectors will feed from the crop as farmers would buy inputs, property and build their houses after sale.

Farmers who spoke to Post On Sunday said they are more worried of middlemen and private individual buyers who stay and seat by the gate of the floors waiting to steal from them. Buyers have already started going around farms and communal areas buying tobacco more so with the increased distance caused by closure of floors in most districts where tobacco is produced.

Production is this year expected to increase by 8.5 percent and foreign currency retention hike is part of government efforts to ramp up production to a national target of 300 million kg by 2025.

VP Chiwenga urged the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) to ensure fairness as a regulatory board so that farmers return back to their farms with a decent wage for their effort.

“Our eyes are fixed on the role of tobacco in uplifting livelihoods in line with our President, Emmerson D. Mnangagwa’s vision of an empowered and prosperous upper middle-income society by 2030,” said Chiwenga.

He added and said the tobacco sector alone had the potential to anchor the Zimbabwean economy as it possessed huge opportunities for growth, citing how the circular economy benefits from the whole process starting from land preparation to the sale of the crop and everyone involved.

However, the production of the crop has seen a huge depletion of forests, indigenous trees and exposure of water sources coupled with environmental degradation.

The Forestry Commission of Zimbabwe told this publication that, regardless of the sale, year in year out, the ministry of finance has failed to honor its obligation of timeously disbursing allocated funds to work on the afforestation program.

FCZ said they are under resourced.

Tobacco farmers have since time immemorial paid, reviewed downwards from 150 percent, 75 percent and now 50 percent levy in United States Dollars, but not going towards the afforestation program. The FCZ is allocated inadequate funds in local Zimbabwe dollars to manage the forests which tobacco farmers use to cure their crop.

Confirming this development, FCZ said tobacco farmers account for 60,000 hectares (148,000 acres) of deforestation each year, around 20 % of the country’s total forest loss close to 300,000 hectares (741,000 acres) every year.

Under the Zimbabwean law, anyone who cuts down tress, (or collects other forest products) without a license risks arrest and there is a stipulated fine of between ZWL $14000 to $140 000 Zimbabwe dollars or US$14 to 1400. This applies to tobacco farmers using wood to cure their crop, unless they’ve planted a wood lot equal to 30 percent of their tobacco field.

Climate experts have since started engaging with farmers and associations on improved ways of curing tobacco so that trees are preserved.

For a good sale to happen, flue cured tobacco need monitoring, enough firewood, management and grading before going to the floors. 

Tobacco sales are being conducted at the Tobacco Sales Floor (TSF) and Premier Tobacco Auction Floors (PTAF).

The first bale sold last week fetched US$4.35 per Kg which was slightly higher than the US$4.20 per Kg fetched by the first bale last year. The government of Zimbabwe is targeting an estimate of US$8.2 billion economy from the golden leaf which is the second largest foreign currency earning export product.