Tobacco selling season opens on high note

Dr Made

Dr Made

Zvamaida Murwira and Runyararo Muzavazi—
The 2017 tobacco selling season opened on a high note yesterday, with the opening price pegged at $4.60 per kilogramme amid high expectations from stakeholders that the price would continue firming as marketing progresses on the back of good rains received this season. There were no incidents of farmers protesting low prices that characterised previous seasons.

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There was, however, a technical glitch on the new electronic marketing system, resulting in all the three auction floors reverting to the manual system.
This drawback, however, did not deter the marketing process.

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Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) licensed Boka Tobacco Auction Floors, Tobacco Sales Floor and Premier Tobacco Auction Floor to conduct the auctions.

Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made said he was excited about the opening price that he said was fair considering that the early tobacco was generally of low quality.

“We are not talking of yield per se. We are talking of crops that have been brought on to the floor today. Achieving that $4.60, that is very good because it is still the lower leaf. We go up in terms of what will be coming in and I anticipate that the price will be better,” said Minister Made.

Commenting on the system failure experienced on the e-marketing platform, Minister Made said that was normal whenever a new system is introduced.

“The experience is very clear. When you introduce a new system, you are likely to succeed or you have a system failure temporarily, but that can only be explained by experts,” said Minister Made.

TIMB chief executive Dr Andrew Matibiri, said that they were working on the problems and was hopeful that the system would be back on line soon.

“We have had some problems with the new e-marketing system and we have had to resort to the manual system for today but we are very hopeful that going forward we will be using the new system,” he said.

Earlier on Minister Made delivered a keynote address as guest of honour at a brief ceremony to mark the official opening of the marketing season. He implored the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to prioritise the agriculture sector in its foreign currency allocation since it was one of the biggest foreign currency earners in the country.

He also challenged contracting firms to provide comprehensive financial packages like irrigation, infrastructural and financial related assistance to enhance productivity.

“The burden on the tobacco farmers as raised by the RBZ governor Dr (John) Mangudya, is that as we generate foreign currency, we want to be given priority on foreign exchange allocation so that we meet all the requirements. We cannot talk of productivity without talking of soil fertility, so we need herbicides and chemicals”, said Minister Made.

Speaking at the same occasion TIMB chairperson, Mrs Monica Chinamasa, said the board was encouraged with an announcement by Treasury to appropriate outstanding disbursements of the Afforestation Fund and that the 2017 collections would accrue directly to her organisation.

“We are very delighted by this clear pronouncement by Government and as such, we will immediately embark on an aggressive afforestation programme using the levy funds,” said Minister Chinamasa.

Dr Mangudya described tobacco farmers as the country’s heroes given that they generate $800 million in foreign exchange, which he said was more than fuel requirements cover for the country.

“The producers of tobacco are indeed our heroes. You are important in this economy. The foreign currency that you produce is about $800 million a year, that amount is sufficient to oil Zimbabwe throughout the whole year. Zimbabwe spends about $60 million in fuel per month which amounts to $720 million per year. Tobacco industry produces enough fuel for the economy,” said Dr Mangudya.

Chinese ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mr Huang Ping, commended local tobacco growers saying Harare produced one of the best leaves in the world.

“All the best brand Cigarette companies in China were not busy until we started importing tobacco from Zimbabwe,” said Mr Ping.

The event was attended by Government Ministers, diplomats accredited to Zimbabwe, captains of industry, bankers and farmers among others.

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