A total of 196.5 million kilogrammes of tobacco worth 578.5 million US dollars has been sold in Zimbabwe since the 2016 marketing season commenced in March this year, according to the latest statistics from the industry regulator.

Final statistics for the season, which ended on Aug 5, will be released after the conclusion of mop-up sales next Tuesday but statistics from the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) after Day 94 of sales showed an increase both in the value and mass sold compared with the same period last year.

During the comparable period last year, at least 189.9 million kg of tobacco were sold at a value of 555.7 million USD. In the period under review this year, the average price for tobacco was 2.94 USD per kg compared with 2.93 USD per kg last season.

The past cropping season was characterized by drought which resulted in farmers planting late, while the crop was also heavily affected by dry spells.

This year, the marketing season opened with some farmers complaining about the new payment system which the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe introduced, which required them to open bank accounts into which payments would be deposited as opposed to receiving cash on the spot at the auction floors as in previous years.

The new payment system was met with mixed reactions, with some farmers welcoming it while others felt the old system was more convenient, particularly in light of the cash shortages the country is experiencing.

The central bank tried to cushion them from the change by simplifying the process so that banks only required tobacco farmers to furnish them with their national identity card and grower's number in order to open bank accounts.

In addition, the bank accounts have favourable conditions which include waiving of charges for maintaining them.