Tobacco marketing season begins March 21 (file pic) Buyers bid for the golden leaf at the official opening of the tobacco selling season at Boka Auction Floors in Harare

Elita Chikwati Senior Agriculture Reporter
The 2018 tobacco marketing season is expected in two weeks, with farmers already in the process of reaping, curing and grading their crop. In a statement last week, the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) said the auction floors would open on March 21, while the contract floors will become operational the next day.

“Sales bookings will open on Wednesday 7th March 2018 and deliveries accepted as from Monday 12th March 2018,” said TIMB in a statement.

The board has since licensed three auction floors — Boka Tobacco Floors, Premier Auction Tobacco Floors and Tobacco Sales Floor.

TIMB corporate communications manager Mr Isheunesu Moyo said a contractor, Agritrade Leaf Tobacco (ALT), had applied to decentralise the auction floors, and its application was still under consideration.

“ALT is licensed as a contractor and has applied for a licence to operate contract floors in Harare and Rusape,” he said. “The company’s application to operate a contract floor in Rusape is under consideration as its proposed building was inspected and is required to conform to certain requirements of the board.

“Mashonaland Tobacco Company has not registered with the board any intentions to operate a floor in Rusape.”
MTC has floors in Mvurwi and Karoi, where it buys tobacco from its contracted growers.
TIMB has so far registered 118 338 growers for the 2018 marketing season.

This is an increase of 44 percent from the 82 438 growers who had registered during the same period in 2017.
The number of new growers has also increased by 124 percent to 33 650 this season from 15 042 last year.
The increase in registration has largely been influenced by the need for farmers to obtain individual grower’s numbers so that  they benefit from the introduction of foreign currency incentives.

Government in 2016 awarded tobacco farmers an export incentive, which rewards the growers for generating foreign currency through exporting goods and services.

The incentive pays the farmer a 12,5 percent bonus on the foreign currency generated.
The use of plastic money has also made it difficult for the farmers to share their money after selling their crop as they are no longer paid in cash.
The money is now being deposited in bank accounts or paid through mobile money platforms.

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