By Michael Tome
The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) says it is has received an application to open auction floors in Mashonaland West Province in a bid to decongest the traditional Harare auction floors.
Tobacco sales floors have constantly been overwhelmed with (tobacco) farmers from across the country during the selling season leading to innumerable fraudulent activities and health scare as the centres have witnessed tough times in housing the ever-growing number of tobacco farmers.
Farmers are turning to the golden leaf as it is more lucrative, with its marketing through the auction and contract systems.
TIMB has so far recorded a 44 percent increase in farmers who have registered for the season to 170 169 from 118 142 farmers last year, with 41 552 new registered growers.
TIMB corporate communications manager Mr Isheunesu Moyo acknowledged the application to open Chinhoyi auction floors had been made but it was early to endorse if they were to be opened yet.
He acknowledged that establishment of auction floors in Chinhoyi will decongest the capital city’s auction floors at the same time saving farmers transport costs as they will travel minimum distances.
“An application was made and the process has been initialised. The facilities need to be assessed before a decision can be made. It is therefore premature to say whether or not there will be a floor in Chinhoyi.
“Decentralisation will help in decongesting Harare floors and farmers will benefit by travelling shorter distances to sell,” Mr Moyo said.
The golden leaf is the country’s second biggest foreign currency earner, and the RBZ Governor Dr John Mangudya told Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on public accounts that 2019 tobacco marketing season will start on March 20.
Zimbabwe exports flue-cured tobacco to different parts of the world with China being the largest tobacco consumer.
Last year’s tobacco selling season hit a record high of 237,1 kilogrammes, as Chinese demand for flue-cured tobacco from Zimbabwe increased.
With an estimated 350 million smokers, the Asian country spends around $200 million annually on Zimbabwean tobacco.