Tobacco season starts on Feb 16

THE 2012 tobacco selling season will start on February 16, Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB0 Chairperson Monica Chinamasa has said.

Four auction floors have been licensed to handle tobacco this year.

The four are Tobacco Sales Floor, Boka Tobacco Auction Floors, Millennium Tobacco Floors and a new player Premier Tobacco Auction Floors.

Said Chinamasa: "As you are aware, we started with one auction floor at the beginning of last season which caused a lot of congestion before two more floors came on board. But this time we are more prepared than before and there should be no congestion as farmers have a wider choice of auction floors".

"We hope that growers are going to spread themselves out as much as possible and I hope that we are going to enjoy this season. We don't want to see any discomfort. For now, we believe that the four floors are convenient and the situation will be reviewed if we surpass the 200 million kg mark," she said.

TIMB said the industry failed to meet last year's projected target output of 177 million kgs of tobacco, owing to crop losses of up to 31% at the farms and 21% during the re-handling process.

The tobacco selling season officially closed in August, with mop-up sales stretching until the end of September.

TIMB said drought and re-grading of tobacco impacted negatively on the projected target as 132 million kgs of tobacco were auctioned, raking in US$360,3 million. The balance of output was from contract farming.

"During the current marketing season, tobacco farmers' crop was affected by intermittent rains, forcing them to embark on the re-handling exercise which, however, accounts for 21% in losses," TIMB said.

"Other weather-related conditions on farms affected the golden leaf, accounting for 31% of losses. It is against this background that agricultural experts are calling for extensive educational campaigns on tobacco growing and handling to ensure that the forthcoming season will not record high tobacco losses," TIMB said.

Tobacco is one of the country's top foreign currency earners, accounting for 26% of the country's gross exports last year.

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