Harare (New Ziana)-Decentralised auctioning of tobacco is now a permanent feature as it makes it easier for farmers to sell their crop, the industry regulator said on Tuesday.
Tobacco sales were previously done solely in Harare, resulting in farmers incurring huge costs of transporting the crop as well as suffering the inconveniences of spending days living in squalid conditions at the auction floors which were congested.
Selling of tobacco auction floors in various towns in the tobacco growing regions started being done during the 2021 selling season.
Towns where auction floors were decentralised to include Marondera in Mashonaland East, Rusape in Manicaland, Karoi Mashonaland West as well as Bindura and Mvurwi in Mashonaland Central.
Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) chief executive officer Meanwell Gudu told New Ziana that the decentralisation of tobacco sales would continue in 2022 because it brought convenience and reduced transport costs to farmers who sold their golden leaf at their nearest town.
“The decentralisation is very positive because it is in line with government policy on devolution. It has made it easier for farmers to market their crop instead of coming all the way to Harare. Now they can market in locations closer to them and therefore they are benefiting from reduced costs,” he said.
Gudu added: “Decentralisation is irreversible. It’s something that is now a permanent feature on the tobacco marketing calendar.”
Meanwhile, Gudu said the tobacco crop was at different stages of maturity with the latest crop now being weeded.
“The irrigated crop is now advanced in terms of reaping and curing and in dry land some farmers are topping.
“In terms of the late dry planted, farmers are weeding, they are also applying fertilisers and chemicals,” he said.
During the 2021/2022 summer cropping season, farmers put just over 105 000 hectares of land under tobacco, a drop from 106 494 last year, raising fears that yields would also go down.
According to the TIMB, by December 31 last year, more than 121 000 farmers had registered to grow tobacco during the 2021/22 season, a decrease from the 144 462 growers who had signed up during the same period last year.