Tobacco farmers want early start to 2024 marketing season

WITH 50 percent of the harvested irrigated tobacco now ready for marketing, farmers have called for an early start of the marketing season to avert potential storage losses with the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) indicating that it was still going through the farmers’ representations and was also still to licence buyers.

TIMB public affairs officer Mrs Chelesani Tsarwe said her organisation was consulting stakeholders on suggested dates for the opening of the 2024 marketing season with the board expected to meet at the end of January to deliberate on licencing of buyers.

“To ensure a good harvest, growers are encouraged to apply fertilisers correctly, undertake weed, disease, pest and sucker control. They must ensure they have good, functional and efficient curing facilities and safeguard proper handling of cured leaves to avoid losses,” said Mrs Tsarwe.

TIMB was undertaking a crop assessment exercise in all the tobacco growing regions to estimate national crop yield and production.

Mrs Tsarwe advised stakeholders to expect new measurements meant to decongest the floors in the wake of a cholera outbreak being experienced in some parts of the country.

Zimbabwe Tobacco Growers Association (ZTGA) chairman Mr George Seremwe said since much of the irrigated tobacco had been harvested and cured, an early start to the marketing season was most welcome.

“More than 50 percent of the irrigated crop has been harvested and cured, so as farmers we have suggested that floors be opened from February 15 going onwards. Another reason for this consideration is inadequate storage facilities for some of our farmers as well as the need to raise cash from the sale of a few bales to meet labour payments.”

Mr Seremwe said the crop’s profitability was being compromised due to high interest rates charged by loan sharks, as farmers borrow to fund curing and grading activities for the remaining crop.

Zimbabwe Tobacco Association (ZTA) chief executive officer Mr Rodney Ambrose concurred saying a large percent of the irrigated crop had been cured and was ready for the market, hence the early opening of the floors would help farmers.

“Farmer representatives have indicated that an early start to the season would help them clear loans, reduce borrowing incidences, reduce risks of storing graded tobacco on farms and generate foreign currency early to positively stimulate the market. Farmer viability remains a major concern as costs of production continue to increase against static floor prices.”

Mr Ambrose said farmers were still optimistic Government would revise the pronounced 75 percent foreign currency retention to at least last year’s 85 percent as almost 90 to 100 percent of farmers’ costs are in foreign currency.

Zimbabwe National Farmers Union (ZNFU) president Mrs Monica Chinamasa said opening the marketing season after Easter would allow continuity in trade.

“We don’t want to open the market and stop due to inadequate volumes, so floors should open when there is a lot of tobacco ready for the market.”

“The price matrix is generated from the auction floors so it’s critical to have large tobacco volumes in the auctions for effective price discovery,” she said.

Tobacco Farmers Union Trust (TFUT) president Mr Victor Mariranyika also advocated a late start to the season citing the delayed onset of the rains due to El Nino.

“The Government shifted tobacco seedbed destruction date to January 15 to allow planting to continue and this should also result in dates of opening of floors set for early or mid-April,” he said.

Herald

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