THE 2023 tobacco selling season starts today with the official opening taking place at Tobacco Sales Floor (TSF) in Harare.
This year, the tobacco marketing season is opening earlier than usual in a bid to curb side-marketing and also ensure the season ends before the harmonised elections.
Over the years, side-marketing has become a topical issue and last year the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) went on an accelerated drive to end tobacco side-marketing.
In the run-up to the season’s opening, TIMB warned farmers against side-marketing, a form of contractual default where contracted farmers sell their tobacco to third parties in breach of the contractual agreement which stipulates that tobacco shall only be sold to or bought by the contractor who provided inputs to the farmer. This has mainly been caused by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe policy of paying for part of the deliveries in local currency and the other in foreign currency. This has caused some farmers to favour unofficial channels that pay for the tobacco wholly in hard currency.
This criminal practice has been identified as responsible for loss of millions of dollars annually and has the potential to kill the tobacco industry.
Zimbabwe expects to produce 230 million kilogrammes of tobacco in the 2023 marketing season, up from 212 million kg last year.
The anticipated yield is based on good rains the country has so far received in the 2022/23 cropping season as well as improved hectarage following substantial government support. Despite the challenges faced by farmers during the 2021/22 tobacco production season, Zimbabwe sold over 208 million kg of the golden leaf worth US$637 million by October 2022.
Zimbabwe, one of the world’s top producers of the nicotine leaf, has opened its selling season for the crop as rights groups, environmentalists and international buyers pile pressure on the southern African nation to curb deforestation and child labour on tobacco farms.
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Tobacco production plummeted from a peak of 260 million kg (290 000 tonnes (t) in 1998 to less than 50 million kg (60 000t) a decade later following the eviction of several thousand white farmers who accounted for the majority of the tobacco.
In recent years, Zimbabwe has also increased the size of its crop, regaining its spot as one of the world’s top five tobacco exporters.
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