TOBACCO stakeholders expect the golden leaf’s 2015 marketing season to start in March instead of late February due to late and heavy rains which have affected most parts of the country.
Zimbabwe Tobacco Association chief executive officer Rodney Ambrose, said preparations for the selling season are ongoing and farmers will soon be ready for the marketing of their crop.
“The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board [TIMB], is yet to announce a date. Stakeholders anticipate late February to early March, latest,” Ambrose said.
He said there was still a large percentage of the tobacco crop in the fields due to the late rains.
Ambrose said heavy rains have greatly affected tobacco farmers as some of the crops were washed away and infrastructure destroyed.
“This has impacted negatively on the farmers’ programmes with some crops washed out, nutrient leaching, disease in some, quicker ripening rates and slower curing,” he said.
“The heavy rains have also affected barn and grading infrastructure, with some collapses reported. The wet spell may have an overall effect of reducing the crop size when compared to 2014. However, overall, we still expect fairly good, high-in-demand tobacco crop.”
Ambrose said harvesting of the irrigated crop started in December and will continue into April or early May with the dryland crop.
“Most farmers are now at the stage of curing the irrigated and dryland crop. Early grading of the bottom half of the irrigated crop has started,” he said.
“Most farmers have purchased or are being provided with packaging materials. Farmers, who have improved their growing, reaping, curing, grading and presentation practices as per manufacturer’s requirements, are expecting firmer prices.”
TIMB chief executive officer Andrew Matibiri confirmed, saying the 2015 marketing season will be delayed due to the late rains.
“We can’t tell at the moment when exactly the marketing season will begin, but it’s going to be delayed because of the late rains,” Matibiri said.
According to TIMB, about 88 500 farmers have registered to grow the crop, up from 85 100 during the same period last year.
Total flue-cured tobacco output in 2014 amounted to 216 million kg, compared to 165,85 million kg realised in 2013.
In its 2015 national budget, government projected a hectarage of 90 000 for tobacco, whose output is projected at 222 million kg.