Zim’s tobacco heads for a subdued season

ZIM’s  tobacco auction floors roared to life Wednesday, with Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) chairperson Monica Chinamasa saying the late onset of the rainy season had delayed the marketing season by about three weeks.

Despite projections that agriculture ‑ the mainstay of the economy ‑ will grow by 3,4% anchored on tobacco production, the golden leaf’s marketing authorities say they expect sales to slump by 20%.

By Day 130 last season on November 5, 199 million kilogrammes of the golden leaf had been sold, raking in US$ 586,4 million in revenue.

During the comparative period in 2014, 216,2m kg of the crop had gone under the hammer for US$ 685,2m.

The trend shows production of the crop keeps sliding.

The El Nino-induced drought has seen a dip in the number of tobacco growers this season, with 72,000 having registered to sell their crop this season, down from 91,000 in the comparative season last season.

Of those registered, Chinamasa said 9,120 were new growers registering for the first time, down from 17,255 last season.

The TIMB chairperson said for the first time, electronic marketing of tobacco would be witnessed, “running side-by-side with the conventional system of marketing on the auction floor”.

“TIMB is committed to increasing the efficiency of auction system by continuous implementation of reforms. E-marketing will significantly improve transparency in the pricing of tobacco and there is also an added advantage of accessing sales information in real time,” Chinamasa said.

She said customers were now increasingly requesting tobacco products that were free from pesticide residues, free from non-tobacco related materials and products that comply with sustainable agricultural products.

Agriculture and mechanisation minister Joseph Made told tobacco growers at the opening of the new season that there was a need to empower farmers on ways to overcome the adverse effects of low and erratic rainfall, mid-season droughts, extending the growing season and unlocking value for both crops and livestock.

He implored tobacco farmers to produce their tobacco using the recommended agronomic protocols in order to improve both the chemical and physical integrity of the tobacco product.

Made also told them that the 1,5% tobacco levy had been reduced by half. Government had re-introduced the levy at the beginning of 2015.

“Government re-introduced a tobacco levy on tobacco growers at a rate of 1,5% of the selling price with effect from January 1, 2015. The quantum of the levy has been reduced to 0,75% with effect from January 1 2016,” he said.

The tobacco levy was re-introduced to finance re-afforestation activities such as awareness campaigns and training, after being scrapped in May 2005 to encourage smallholder farmers to produce the crop. – ANA