Tobacco marketing nears end-official
Harare(New Ziana)- Tobacco deliveries to the country’s selling points have dropped from around five million kilogrammes per day at peak to about one million kg now, an indication that the curtain is about to come down on the 2019 marketing season, an official said on Thursday.
Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board spokesperson Isheunesu Moyo told New Ziana that although there were no proposed dates for closing the season, there were clear tell-tale signs this was coming to an end.
“Tobacco deliveries have dropped from five million kilogrammes at peak, we are now on one million kg. That is an indication that we are drawing to the closing of the selling season,” he said.
He said the quality of tobacco was not as good as the one sold last year.
“The tobacco in grades 1 to 3 is actually lower than last year’s in terms of volume due to unfavourable weather conditions which it was grown under,” said Moyo.
The selling season opened in March and by day 97 of auction, 247.2 million kg of tobacco worth US$496.4 million had been sold through both auction and contract systems.
This is, however, less than 247.9 million kg of tobacco worth US$724.9 million which had been sold during the comparable period in 2018.
This year, the golden leaf is being sold at an average price of $2 per kilogram, a 32 percent decline from last year’s average price of $2.93 per kg.
Prices have however, firmed lately with the contract sales recording the highest price of US$5.75 and US$4.99 per kg at the auction.
In 2018, the country produced an all-time high of 252 million kilogrammes of tobacco, earning at least US$1 billion dollars.
But the crop this year was grown under grim weather conditions characterised by late rains and prolonged dry spells, particularly when it was almost ready for harvesting, prompting authorities to review output projections downwards.
Tobacco is the country’s second biggest foreign currency earner, after minerals, though the bulk of the crop is exported in its raw form with the exports generating in excess of US$1 billion annually.
This year, the number of registered growers increased to 185 892 from about 145 695 farmers who sold tobacco in 2018.
Once a preserve for white commercial farmers, tobacco is arguably one of the success stories of agriculture in the post land reform era.