HARARE, Feb 4 — The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) of Zimbabwe has announced that auction floors will open late for the 2015 selling season.

The tobacco marketing season traditionally opens in mid-February but TIMB chief executive officer Dr Andrew Matibiri told New Ziana here Tuesday that the start of the 2015 tobacco selling season will be pushed of to a later date because there was no harvested crop for sale.

Dr Matibiri said the tobacco crop was still at different stages of growth and hence there was no need to open the auction floors yet. Some farmers are still reaping the irrigated tobacco while the rain-fed crop is still far from harvesting.

Communal farmers, who produce the bulk of Zimbabwe’s tobacco, rely on rains. This cropping season, the country received rains later than usual, pushing the planting of tobacco back further than usual.

Dr Matibiri said tobacco was still growing and most farmers who irrigated the crop were now harvesting. “It is a late season because we received rains late. The tobacco has not been harvested yet so there is no point in opening auction floors,” he said, adding that assessment of the tobacco crop was still underway.

“We do not know the tobacco crop size for this season because we are still assessing. The crop assessment report will be out soon,” he added.

In the 2015 national budget, the government projected that 90,000 hectares would be put under tobacco, with output projected at 220 million kilogrammes. Last year, flue-cured tobacco output amounted to 216 million kg, up from 165.85 million kg in 2013.

An oversupply of tobacco on the international market is expected and this may affect prices on the local market thi year.