By Adeva Machiso Gwenzi.
With an estimated 46% increase in registered growers this year, the tobacco marketing season is expected to see an increased number of farmers delivering their crop to the tobacco sales floors.
Mashonaland Central Province registered the highest number of growers, with as many as 63 909 farmers from the total 169 328 farmers.
The hectarage for the 2018/19 cropping season also increased as compared to the previous cropping season which recorded a 5.5% decrease.
The area planted under the tobacco crop is an estimated 102 795 hectares whilst the 2017/18 cropping season recorded 104 397 hectares.
The usual three auction floors, Boka, TSF and Premier were granted licences for this year’s marketing season whilst 42 buyers have applied for buying licences.
The buyer’s licence will however be awarded to only those who meet the exchange control requirements (offshore money), those who demonstrate the capacity to mobilise the required foreign currency for the tobacco payments.
One of the issues that is proving to be an obstacle in the preparation of the marketing season is the shortage of foreign currency.
The three auction floors reported to be in need of foreign currency to complete their preparations.
The Auction floors indicated that,
Services providers are requesting for US Dollar payments or RTGS equivalent, for example sales ticket.
Another challenge being faced by Boka auction floors is the need to repair part of the sales floor’s roof which was destroyed by hail storm in November 2018, Boka, highlighted viability challenges due to increasing costs.
They however reported that they hope to finish the roof repairs by end of February 2019.
Propak, a company which sells wrapping material for the tobacco bales indicated to be having enough material to support the 2019 marketing season but however they have also emphasized the need for foreign currency for their routine material replacements.
The cost of old hessian (tobacco wrapping sack) is USD2 or $5 RTGS and new material is going for USD3 or $7 RTGS.
Fumigators reported to be prepared for the season but also requested for foreign currency allocation to import some of the fumigant’s components.
Twin and Cordage (twine suppliers)indicated that they have enough twine for the marketing season, they are currently producing 60MT/ month.
Meanwhile the negotiations with RBZ and TIMB to ensure that farmers get full value from the crop are underway.
ZFU together with other tobacco representatives are lobbying for at least 60% USD Nostro FCA payment and 40% RTGS with a market related support factor.
The dates for the marketing season have not been finalised but farmers and other stakeholders are of the view that mid-March is the ideal time, taking cognisant of a late crop.
The TIMB will soon be announcing the sales opening dates.