HARARE, Feb 26 — Deliveries of tobacco have started trickling in at Zimbabwe’s auction floors as preparations gather momentum for the the 2015 selling season which begins next month.

Boka Tobacco Auction Floors director for operations and special projects Moses Bias told New Ziana here Wednesday that deliveries of tobacco, though small, had started arriving ahead of the opening of the selling season on March 4, 2015.

“Yes we have started receiving deliveries of tobacco. Yesterday (Tuesday), we received 85 bales bringing the total to 165 bales for the last two days,” he said. “So far the deliveries are slow but we are hoping to see more tobacco coming next week, a few days before opening of the floors because farmers are still preparing to sell. Farmers want to work till the last minute.”

Bias said Boka Tobacco Floors was ready for the selling season to commence. “We are more than ready to handle tobacco this season,” he said.

In e-mailed responses, Premier Tobacco Auction Floors managing director Philemon Mangena said the company was also ready to handle tobacco as well as the farmers who would be selling at the floors.

“Everything is now in place. All our systems have been tested and are in good working order. All our bankers are ready to go. We will be working with five banks this year and they are already on site,” he said.

Mangena said 200 bales of tobacco had so far been delivered at Premier Tobacco Auction Floors. “Yes, we have started receiving tobacco and to date we have about 200 bales on site and our bookings indicated that so far over 2,000 bales have been booked for the first day of sale,” he added.

He said in 2014, Premier Tobacco sold 3,091 bales on the first day of trading. “This year it looks like we may surpass that figure,” he said.

The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board is expected to inspect the three auction floors Boka, Premier and Tobacco Sales Floor as well as one contract floor on Friday to check whether the premises were prepared
to handle tobacco.

Last year Zimbabwe sold 216 million kg of flue cured tobacco, earning the country 684 million US dollars.
Indications are that Zimbabwe is likely to miss its 2015 tobacco target of 220 million kilogrammes as a result of poor weather and handling losses.

The decline is being attributed to erratic rains that characterized the early stages of the 2014/15 season and subsequent flooding in January. The rains also damaged barns in some areas, further affecting quality.

Experts say the indications are worrying as merchants last month hinted they would not buy low grade tobacco.