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Zimbabwe Farmers: Start 2024 Market Early

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Tobacco farmers in Zimbabwe have called for an early start to the 2024 marketing season to prevent potential storage losses, reports The Herald. The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) has indicated that it is still going through farmers’ representations and still licensing buyers.

Currently, 50 percent of the harvested irrigated tobacco is ready for marketing.

The TIMB is consulting stakeholders on suggested dates for opening the 2024 marketing season, according to Chelesani Tsarwe, TIMB public affairs officer. The board is expected to meet at the end of January to deliberate on licensing buyers.

“To ensure a good harvest, growers are encouraged to apply fertilizers correctly, undertake weed, disease, pest and sucker control,” said Tsarwe. “They must ensure they have good, functional and efficient curing facilities and safeguard proper handling of cured leaves to avoid losses.”

“More than 50 percent of the irrigated crop has been harvested and cured, so as farmers, we have suggested that floors be opened from Feb. 15 going onward,” said George Seremwe, Zimbabwe Tobacco Growers Association chairman. “Another reason for this consideration is inadequate storage facilities for some of our farmers as well as the need to raise cash from the sale of a few bales to meet labor payments.”

According to Seremwe, tobacco profitability is being compromised by high interest rates charged by loan sharks.

“Farmer representatives have indicated that an early start to the season would help them clear loans, reduce borrowing incidences, reduce risks of storing graded tobacco on farms and generate foreign currency early to positively stimulate the market,” said Rodney Ambrose, Zimbabwe Tobacco Association CEO. “Farmer viability remains a major concern as costs of production continue to increase against static floor prices.”

“We don’t want to open the market and stop due to inadequate volumes, so floors should open when there is a lot of tobacco ready for the market,” said Monica Chinamasa, Zimbabwe National Farmers Union president, who said the marketing season should open after Easter rather than earlier. “The price matrix is generated from the auction floors, so it’s critical to have large tobacco volumes in the auctions for effective price discovery.”

“The government shifted [the] tobacco seedbed destruction date to Jan. 15 to allow planting to continue, and this should also result in dates of opening of floors set for early or mid-April,” said Victor Mariranyika, Tobacco Farmers Union Trust president, who is also in favor of a late start to the season.