THE 2017 tobacco marketing season opens today with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe pledging $1 000 cash withdrawals for the first sale of the crop for small scale farmers.
Hopes are high that the country will reap more foreign exchange earnings from tobacco, which has become a crucial player in the economy.
In a joint statement yesterday, the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe said proceeds from the sale of tobacco would be paid through farmers’ bank accounts and electronic platforms.
“The RBZ, TIMB and Tobacco Farmers Association wish to advise that under the current 2017 tobacco selling season, individual small scale farmers will be allowed to withdraw cash of up to $1 000 from their first tobacco sale and a maximum of up to $500 for subsequent sales,” reads part of the notice.
“The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and all the banking institutions are geared to assist farmers to access their cash during the current tobacco marketing season. Farmers are encouraged to use electronic money (Plastic Money) for their transactions.”
The apex bank also advised farmers that the five percent bond notes incentive for this year’s marketing season will be credited to the farmers bank accounts on a monthly basis.
Last year the RBZ awarded the five percent export incentive to 65 829 tobacco growers through normal banking channels. The farmers had sold tobacco worth $586 937 937 and received a combined $29 346 897 incentive.
Meanwhile, contract sales are expected to open tomorrow.
TIMB spokesperson Mr Isheunesu Moyo said all was set for the opening of this year’s tobacco selling season.
“Everything is in place for the opening of the 2017 tobacco marketing season. We have licensed 22 buyers and three auction floors and we are expecting that more tobacco will be sold this year than what was sold last year,” he said.
Last year tobacco farmers sold about 202,2 million kilogrammes of the flue-cured golden leaf raking in millions of dollars.
Zimbabwe exports flue-cured tobacco to different parts of the world including countries such as China, United Arab Emirates, Japan, Zambia, South Africa, Brazil, India, Jordan, and the United Kingdom.
Last year, the country exported the golden leaf to about 65 countries generating $933 million.
Of late, concerns have been raised on the need to implement value addition to realise more from the tobacco sector.
In a separate interview, tobacco farmer and expert Mr Isaac Watyoka said it was imperative for the country to value add its tobacco.
“Over the years, tobacco has continued to play a significant role in the country’s economy by raking in billions of dollars through foreign currency. It is high time, as a nation we move towards value addition of the golden leaf so that we can generate more foreign currency,” he said.
Although the country celebrates the revenue being generated by the tobacco sector through exports, Mr Watyoka said, the country was losing a lot of foreign currency that could be coming in through value addition.
As of last Friday, TIMB indicated that a total of 83 071 farmers had registered to grow tobacco in the 2016/17 cropping season with new registrations for the season standing at 15 218 growers. Since the beginning of the year, seasonal exports were at 36,2 million kgs generating $185,6 million.
During the same period last year, 34 million kgs were exported raking in $217,9 million.