The 2017 tobacco marketing season has opened today (15-03-2017), with more than 1 000 bales expected to be sold across the three action floors in Harare today.

 Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made will be guest of honour at a ceremony to mark the official opening to be held at Boka Tobacco Auction Floors. Chinese ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mr Huang Ping, whose country is the biggest buyer of Zimbabwe’s tobacco, is also expected to give some remarks at a ceremony to be attended by senior Government officials, several diplomats, captains of industry, bankers and farmers. The auction process is expected to commence simultaneously at Boka Tobacco Auction Floors, Tobacco Sales Floor and Premier Tobacco Auction Floor soon after the opening ceremony.

In an interview yesterday, Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board chief executive Dr Andrew Matibiri said stakeholders to the marketing season were ready for the tobacco selling season.

“All the systems are ready for the marketing,” he said. “This includes all the three auction floors and buyers, and so are we as TIMB. There will be a new system of electronic marketing.

“We have more than 1 000 bales that have been delivered across the three auction floors, but the figure is expected to rise since some farmers are still travelling to Harare.”

Dr Matibiri said Government’s decision to introduce a five percent export incentive scheme was expected to go a long way in curbing side marketing.

He urged tobacco farmers to sell their produce using the formal system for them to benefit from the incentive scheme introduced by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.

Dr Matibiri said unscrupulous merchants would not have any chance because it was no longer in the farmer’s interest to go through them when selling their tobacco.

“Yes, the five percent export incentive will definitely curb side-marketing,” he said. “If farmers are involved in side-marketing, it means whoever has sold that tobacco is the one who benefits from the export incentive and that the farmer will not benefit from it.”

Dr Matibiri advised the traders who come to sell various wares within the vicinity of auction floors to be orderly and observe cleanliness within the environs of the tobacco auction floors to avoid disease outbreaks.

Farmers would be allowed to withdraw a maximum of $1 000 for initial tobacco sales, while $500 would be withdrawn in subsequent sales, according to a joint statement by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, TIMB and Tobacco Farmers Association.

“Proceeds from the sale of tobacco will be paid through farmers’ bank accounts and electronic platforms,” they said.

A total of 82 699 growers have registered for the 2016-17 season, with 15 167 making their first appearance at the auction floors.