The 2020 tobacco marketing season, which had been scheduled to open on April 22, will now open on Wednesday.

Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board chief executive, Dr Andrew Matibiri, said some auction floors would be decentralised, while others would continue operating in Harare, but under strict regulations to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

“Contract tobacco sales will start on Thursday April 30 while sales bookings and deliveries will open on Monday April 27, 2020,” he said.

“Some contractors had already decentralised auction floors and will operate from there while others were geared for Harare. These will operate in Harare under strict guidelines.”

Irrigated tobacco farmers are ready for the marketing season while most of those who had dryland crop are finishing reaping, curing and grading.

According to the 2019-20 First Round Crop and Livestock Assessment report, farmers planted 100 426 hectares of tobacco.

The area put under tobacco declined by six percent from the 106 558 hectares planted during the 2018-19 season.

The report also states that the bulk of the irrigated tobacco was ready for marketing, while dryland farmers are reaping, curing and grading their crop.

During the present cropping season, tobacco was affected by black shank, a disease which is a serious threat to output, especially in Mashonaland West.

Meanwhile, the tobacco industry has come up with regulations and guidelines to lead farmers, buyers and other staff who will be operating at the floors to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

This season, only persons providing essential services may enter premises and will be screened for body temperature with their identification details recorded.

The temperature check will be conducted by an official trained by the Ministry of Health and Child Care.

Hand washing facilities comprising running water and either an alcohol based sanitiser, disinfectant or soap will be availed at entry points for use before entering and after sales.

Entry into the auction floors will be restricted to active buyers only.

Tobacco production in Zimbabwe has been on the increase since the land reform.

The country is now the major tobacco producer in Africa and is among the top five producers in the world.