Tobacco marketing opens early March

PLAYERS in the tobacco industry have proposed March 10 as the opening date for the 2017 marketing season, businessdigest has learnt.

By Fidelity Mhlanga

Following a meeting among various stakeholders, including growers, officers from the central bank, industry regulators, buyers and merchants, it was agreed that the golden leaf marketing season commences early next month given that farmers have inadequate storage space for the crop which is fast ripening.

“The Zimbabwe Tobacco Association (ZTA) and Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union (ZFU) among others are proposing the marketing season commences on the 10th of March and not later than the 15th of March. Their argument was that the crop is ripening rapidly and storage space is fast running out,” the source said.

Players who attended the meeting confirmed they are prepared to kick-start the season on the proposed dates.
However, Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (TIMB) public relations manager Isheunesu Moyo could not be drawn into discussing outcomes of the meeting.

Contacted for comment, ZTA chief executive officer Rodney Ambrose on Tuesday confirmed the meeting was held, but he would also not be drawn into discussing specific details of the deliberations.

“We had a stakeholders’ meeting this (Tuesday) morning and this date is subject to confirmation by TIMB and the ministry of Agriculture. I can only speak when those two have approved the dates, but it is around next month,” Ambrose said.

The tobacco marketing season, which in 2015 commenced on March 4, was last year delayed to end of March as a result of late rains.

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor John Mangudya last year lobbied for the early opening of the golden leaf’s marketing season given its significant role in oiling the country’s nostro accounts.

Figures from the TIMB also show that as of January 5, tobacco planted for the 2016/17 season stands at 91 805 hectares from 87 755 hectares last season.

Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa anticipates huge tobacco foreign currency earnings from this year’s crop essential in easing the country’s liquidity and crippling foreign payment hurdles.

This year’s golden leaf output has been pegged at 200 million kg by stakeholders despite indications excess rains may militate against a better yield

According to the golden leaf assessment report gleaned by this newspaper, this year’s tobacco crop is facing continuous rains affecting operations, prolonged curing periods due to humid conditions, leaching of nutrients and water logging leading to flush and false ripening, and top dressing fertilizer shortage on the market.

As a result, average yield on irrigated tobacco crop will range between 2 000—2 600kg/ha for the commercial sector and between 1 200 – 1 800kg/ha for other sectors.

According to the report, dry tobacco crop average yield ranges between 1 600—2 000kg/ha for the commercial sector and between 1 000 — 1 200kg/ha for other sectors.

While tobacco production has been improving, it has not yet reached the record high of 236,13 million kg in 2000.

In 2001 a total of 202, 5 million kg was sold. The decline continued in 2003 to 2005 when 81,8 million kg, 69,1 million kg and 73,3 million kg were respectively sold. In 2006, a total of 55,5 million kg were sold while only 73, 5 million kg were delivered in 2007.

In 2010, 123,5 million kg of tobacco worth US$355,7 million went under the hammer.

The figures surged to 132, 5 million kg as tobacco valued at US$361,5 million was sold in 2011.

In 2012, 144,5 million kg valued US$540 million, increasing to 166,7 million kg worth US$610 million in 2013.

As the appetite for growing the crop increased, 216,2 million kg of the crop was sold in 2014, realising US$685,2 million.

In 2015, tobacco output was 199 million kg raking in US $867 million.

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