Merchants say no to low-grade tobacco

Elita Chikwati Agriculture Reporter
Preparations for the 2015 tobacco marketing season have started with merchants indicating that they will not be buying low-grade leaves this season.

An oversupply of tobacco on the international market is expected and this may affect local prices.

Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board chairperson Mrs Monica Chinamasa recently urged farmers not to bring the lower leaves, commonly called primings, to the floors as merchants had already indicated they did not want them.

“Buyers have already indicated that this season they want a good cured leaf and will not accept scrap and primings as they could get them cheaper elsewhere,” she said.

“Farmers are aware of this position and they should present a high quality crop to get good prices. Merchants want the Zimbabwean tobacco for its unique flavour. We produce a good flavour because of the good climatic conditions.”

Mrs Chinamasa said TIMB was yet to come up with the opening date, but said auction floors had already registered to operate this season.

“Auction floors have applied and paid licence fees.

“TIMB is still consulting stakeholders on the date of opening and once we agree we will consult Government before the date is approved and announced,” she said.

Last season auction floor operators complained of contractors they alleged took the bulk of the crop, leaving the former with no business.

Mrs Chinamasa said all auction floors had registered to operate this season.

She urged farmers to follow regulations to avoid fines.

Some farmers do not register and book before they deliver their crop for sale and they are charged a fine.

“We charge them because they would have failed to comply with regulations. The registration and bookings allow us to make projections and if farmers do not book we get wrong targets and it costs us,” she said.

Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Mr Wonder Chabikwa urged farmers to reap, cure and grade according to market requirements for them to get good prices.

“This season no low-grade tobacco will be taken by merchants. Bringing low-grade tobacco to the market will be a waste of time,” he said.

“Last season most farmers failed to grade their crop properly and this affected prices.”

Mr Chabikwa said ZCFU had been training farmers on the correct grading to improve the quality of the tobacco.

Zimbabwe Farmers Union president Mr Abdul Nyathi said farmers were expecting good prices this season.

“Farmers have incurred huge costs in the production, reaping and curing and they have to get good prices so they can make a profit,” he said.

“There are certain standards that should be followed to come up with a high quality leaf. ZFU is conducting training with farmers on the important aspects of tobacco production to maximise profits.”

About 220 million kilogrammes of tobacco are expected this year, a figure that might be difficult to reach given the latest developments on grading and quality requirements.

The figure, if achieved, would be a marginal increase from the 216 million kg sold last year.

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