HARARE, March 11–Tobacco farmers should ensure the crop that they take to the auction floors is of a good quality in order to fetch high prices, says Zimbabwe’s Deputy Minister of Agriculture Mechanization and Irrigation Development, Paddy Zhanda.

The quality of the crop and other market forces determined the prices of tobacco, he said here Tuesday. “The issue of a fair price is a bit difficult because that fair price is as a result of the quality of the crop and demand and supply issues,” he added.

The comments by Zhanda followed the chaos which characterized the first day of the tobacco marketing season last week when farmers at the Boka and the Tobacco Sales Floor demonstrated against low prices being offered.

Farmers disrupted the auctions as they demonstrated against the 3.50 US dollar per kilogramme that the first bale fetched compared with 4.85 USD per kg last year. The highest price which tobacco fetched on the first day at the two auction floors was 4.99 USD per kg while the lowest was 0.20 USD per kg.

Zhanda said demand for the crop on the international market and competition from other big producers, including Brazil, also had an effect on local prices. “Last year the tobacco price (in Zimbabwe) was very firm due to challenges in other producing countries,” he added.

Since the country adopted multiple foreign currencies, the tobacco industry has experienced rapid growth as many farmers have been shifting from other crops to the “golden leaf” because of the favourable prices it

Last year, sales of total flue-cured tobacco amounted to 216 million kg, earning the country 684 million USD.
This year, the Tobacco Industry Marketing Board has forecast production at 190 million kg owing to unfavorable growing conditions.