ZIMBABWE - The 2015 flue-cured tobacco selling season ended last weekend, with farmers describing it as one of the toughest in recent years. Drought and floods affected the quantity and quality of the crop.
The industry had projected production of between 185 and 220 million kg, a figure later revised downwards.
This season farmers complained of poor prices, accusing buyers of hoarding the crop for resale at higher prices.
Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board statistics show that as at July 10, farmers had sold 185 million kilogrammes worth $545 million.
This is a decline from the 204 million kg of tobacco worth $647 million sold during the corresponding period last year.
A fortnight ago, the Tobacco Sales Floor had recorded sales of 22,6 million kg of the crop worth $56,3 million at an average price of $2,49 per kg.
Boka Tobacco Floors recorded sales of 14 million kg worth $33 million at an average of $2,38 per kg while Premier Tobacco Floors recorded sales of 9,4 million kg worth $23 million at an average price of $2,42 per kg.
Contract floors continued to take the bulk of the crop as 139 million kg of tobacco worth $433 million were sold through contract floors.
The auction floors recorded sales of 46 million kg worth $112 million.
The highest price of $6,25 per kg was recorded at Tianze Tobacco Company while all auction floors maintained the highest price of $4,99 per kg.
A2 resettled farmers sold 61,2 million kg of tobacco, communal 55,7 million kg, A1 49,2 million kg and small-scale producers 18 million kg.
Mashonaland West led in sales with farmers selling 66,4 million kg, Mashonaland Central (50,7 million kg), Mashonaland East (40,2 million kg), Manicaland (26,1 million kg), Midlands (583 270 kg), Masvingo (191 234 kg) and Matabeleland 30 220kg.
Tobacco growers complained throughout the season of low prices offered by buyers while merchants argued that the quality of the crop was low.
TIMB chairperson Mrs Monica Chinamasa said there was need to find a solution to the challenges affecting the industry to avoid a collapse as what happened with the cotton industry.
"The issue of yield and quality is very important to tobacco production. Farmers should make profits and they can only do so if they produce a crop that meets market requirements," she said.
"It is important to tell farmers where they are failing and teach them to cure their crop and present in a good way," she said.
"No buyer is willing to buy a low quality product. Some farmers produce good quality leaves but do not know how to properly cure their crop and this affects prices."
Meanwhile, TIMB has partnered with a private company to train farmers in tobacco production to improve the quality of the crop next season.
July 23, 2015; http://allafrica.com/stories/201507200370.html