THE Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) has reduced the number of auction days to three per week, with farmers being advised to speed up grading and deliveries of the crop for sale.
The volumes of tobacco being delivered to the auction floors have been declining as most farmers have already sold their crop.
So far, farmers have sold 168 million kilogrammes of tobacco worth US$424 million.
This is a decline of 20 percent from the 211 million kilogrammes that had been sold by farmers during the same period last year.
According to the TIMB, licensed auction floors will open for three days a week.
“With immediate effect, licensed auction floors will open for three days a week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday until August 28.
“Thereafter auction floor sales will be done as advised by the auction floors once they have booked and received sizeable numbers of bales to constitute a sale.”
The board has not yet announced the closing dates.
Farmers unions confirmed that most farmers, especially smallholders, had sold their crop and were now concentrating on seedbeds ahead of planting in September.
Tobacco Association of Zimbabwe president, Mr George Seremwe, said most of the smallholder farmers had sold their crop.
He said some farmers were also now following the exchange rate and preferred to sell after the forex auction to increase their earnings.
“Commercial farmers are still bringing their crop to the floors.
“We have noted some improvements in the payment system at the auction floors,” he said.
Zimbabwe Tobacco Association chief executive Mr Rodney Ambrose recently suggested a bi-weekly forex auction.
“A weekly rate could result in speculation, with farmers delivering only on days after the auction and withholding on days prior to the day of auction,” he said.
The Second Crop Assessment report shows that tobacco production is expected to decline slightly from the record 259.5 million kg last year to 224.1 million kg in the current season because of the reduced planted area and the erratic rains.
Tobacco is ranked as one of the most economically important non-food crops in Zimbabwe, earning millions of dollars annually.
The crop is important to the country as a foreign currency earner, contributing to improved livelihoods and employing a large number of people.–herald.co.zw