THE Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) says consultations are still ongoing to ensure smooth business when the selling season opens next week amid the global pandemic of Covid-19.

Speaking by telephone from Harare yesterday, TIMB chief executive officer Dr Andrew Matibiri said consultations on how business would be conducted when the selling season opens next Wednesday in light of Covid-19 were still in progress and Government will soon be issuing a statement in that regard.

“It is true that this year’s tobacco selling season will be opening next week. Stakeholders in the tobacco sector are still in consultations as to how business will be conducted at the auction floors in light of Covid-19.

“However, l am not able to give the details pertaining the consultations at the moment as discussions are still in progress. I think the relevant authorities will soon be making a statement once the consultations are over,” he said.

The tobacco sector plays a critical role in sustaining Zimbabwe’s economy by generating the much needed foreign currency.

The country exports flue-cured tobacco to different parts of the world mainly China, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Belgium, and Indonesia.

Since the beginning of the year, Zimbabwe has so far exported more than US$200 million worth of the golden leaf across the globe.

Tobacco is exported throughout the year although the bulk of the crop is bought from farmers over a few weeks.

Merchants then process, grade and store the leaf exporting shipments as orders flow in.

Meanwhile, tobacco farmers have since indicated that they are ready to start delivering the irrigated crop to the floors and their contracted buyers floors ahead of the 2020 marketing season.

TIMB has since announced its commitment to ensure farmers will this year get 50 percent of their income in foreign currency.

Last season, TIMB announced a new marketing system just a few days before the floors opened, which saw farmers withholding produce while buyers also pushed for a review of the new arrangement that would see them getting 70 percent while Government retained 30 percent.

This year’s tobacco output is projected to decline by 13 percent to 225 million kg from a record high of 259 million kg in the previous marketing season largely due to drought.

Zimbabwe generates US$1 billion annually from tobacco exports and the sector has in recent years been critical in sustaining the economy through improving the much-needed foreign currency reserves.

Considerable value is added locally to the crop before export.