BY VENERANDA LANGA
TOBACCO Industry Marketing Board (TIMB) chief executive officer Andrew Matibiri yesterday told Parliament that as at July 19 this year, 233,6 million kg of tobacco had been sold at an average price of US$1,97 per kg.
Matibiri and the TIMB board, led by its chairperson Patrick Devenish, appeared before the Justice Mayor Wadyajena-led Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Lands and Agriculture and told MPs that the average price of US$1,97 per kg was 33% lower than last year’s, when a kg of the golden leaf fetched
“The transactions in the tobacco industry are denominated in US dollars and for payments to farmers, it is converted to Zim dollars,” Matibiri said.
“What we have seen is that the average price of US$1,97 per kg is lower than last year, which was US$2,92 per kg.”
Matibiri said the prices of tobacco were different at every auction floor, with Tobacco Sales Auction Floors buying at US$1,87 per kg, Boka Tobacco Auction Floors at US$1,59 and Premier Tobacco Auction Floors at US$1,50 per kg.
He said when the tobacco selling season began, the prices were very low but, they had picked up in the past few weeks.
On farmers that registered to sell this year, he said 185 892 registered to sell compared to 145 695 last year.
“Out of the 185 892 farmers who registered, over 70% have actually delivered tobacco for sale and so far, 47 450 farmers have already registered to grow tobacco next year.
On seed sales sold, Matibiri said 318 005 grams had so far been sold up to Friday compared to 711 750 grams sold last year, which is a 55,3% drop.
“The amount of seed sold is worrying because farmers in the northern areas, who sow seeds late, will be buying. We witnessed a similar reduction in seed sold in 2015, when farmers did not have ready cash to buy seeds,” he said.
“For this year, because of changes in the monetary and financial systems, we were told that by this time serious farmers would already be buying seeds, but we are not seeing that. Some farmers are experiencing serious shortages of water, for example, in Hurungwe and the northern areas.”
Out of the number of tobacco growers, Matibiri said 25 985 are communal area farmers, 60 585 are A1 farmers, 2 640 are small scale commercial farmers and 2 646 are A2 farmers.
“Most of our growers are communal and A1 farmers and large-scale commercial farmers are not contributing as much as before,” he said.
On exports, Matibiri said 68 million kg valued at US$261 million were exported to 61 destinations in 2018, with 49 million kg valued at US$216 million exported to mostly China, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates and Belgium.
On inputs, Matibiri said TIMB was looking at supporting 30 000 hectares, which is 40% of the crop, but he said because of changes in the monetary policy, they might end up assisting only 20% of the crop.
Last year, he said around US$741 million of tobacco was exported and an estimated US$250 million used to repay the foreign loans.
The Lands and Agriculture Committee also questioned Matibiri on the US$500 000 loan which was given to Chinhoyi University of Technology, yet the university was linked to one of TIMB’s former board members, David Jambwa Simbi, at the time the loan was given to CUT, thus violating the Public Entities Corporate Governance Act.
The TIMB board said the money was for developing tobacco curing systems and that CUT had repaid the loan and only US$100 000 was outstanding.