THE first week of this year’s tobacco marketing season started on a low note amid revelations that farmers were displeased with the price being offered for their crop.
BY JENNIFER DUBE
Both auction and contract sales were conducted at the three auction floors namely Boka Tobacco Floors, Premier Tobacco Floors and Tobacco Sales Floor.
The first week of the marketing season started on February 13.
Farmers who spoke to The Standard said they were irked by the price their crop was fetching, adding that they hoped the price per kg would be improved as the selling season progressed.
“The prices are very low, ranging between US$1 per kg and US$4,79. we are not happy about this,” a farmer from Centenary, Ramos Chibayira said.
“We expected between US$5 and US$6 per kg.”
Chibayira is expecting 30 bales from the two hectares he planted.
Like other farmers, he had expected a better yield, but the crop was affected by adverse weather conditions.
“Long dry spells from the time of planting in September 2012 affected the crop a lot,” Darwendale farmer, Honest Katuruza said.
“I am one of those who had to re-plant when the rains improved in November because the crop was not doing well.
“Then came the December rains which were too much. This again is not good for the crop.”
The floors’ premises were on Friday devoid of the hustle and commotion that is synonymous with their environs during the marketing season. There were only a few farmers turning up for sales.
Officials at the floors said they were conducting single sales per day instead of two, indicating that they suspected farmers were buying time, hoping for improved prices.
Vendors who operate from outside the sales floors’ premises, whose business is usually boosted by the farmers’ spending power, said they were yet to “feel” the farmers’ presence.
Officials at the auction floors said most of the tobacco received during the first week was not the best quality, hence the low prices.
Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board chief executive, Andrew Matibiri said it was too early to assess the season, adding his company was satisfied with the first week’s sales.
“The season started well and is going well,” Matibiri said.
“First week prices are higher than those paid for the same quality, same time last year.”
“During this time of the season, farmers bring leaves from the lower part of the plant. The best quality comes from the middle to the upper part of the plant, which always comes later in the season.”
A total of 3 285 804kg of tobacco was sold during the first week of the season, recording a 8,13 % drop from the 3 576 505 sold during the same time in 2012.
There was also a 16% change in the monetary value of the tobacco, which this year stood at US$10 588 696 compared to US$12 675 912 for the same period last season.
The crop’s average price per kg dropped 9,08% to US$3,22 from US$3,54 recorded last year.
Tobacco is one of the largest foreign currency earners of the economy.
Last year 144,5 million kg of tobacco worth US$525 million went under the hammer. The revenue generated was 46%, up from the previous season’s US$360 million.
TIMB has previously said it expects 170 million kg of the golden leaf to be brought to the auction floors this season.