TOBACCO farmers are expecting the tobacco auction floors to open by the beginning of March as they are still curing and grading the crop in preparation of the tobacco marketing season.
The country’s tobacco auction floors normally open mid-February, but last year opened early March due to farmers’ ill-preparedness.Last season the tobacco marketing season opened on March 4 with farmers rioting against the poor opening prices that saw the first bale selling at US$3,50 per kg with the lowest fetching US$0,10 per kg.
Zimbabwe Farmers Union president Abdul Nyathi said expectations were high this season that the situation will be different compared to 2015.
“It is every farmer’s hope that prices will be better this year, but we all know that prices are determined by the quality and also the quantity of tobacco,” Nyathi said.
“As farmers prepare for the marketing season, they are busy grading and baling their crop although it is not yet clear when the auction floors will open.”
The actual commencement date and opening of floors will be announced by the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board.
Grading is one of the most labour intensive operations in tobacco production and requires high level of management and supervision. It is critical to grade the tobacco to present it in a manner that enhances both its use and value to the buyers.
As a thumb rule, growers must grade their tobacco according to plant position, colour, style, quality and length. Systemic grading is one of the secrets to good tobacco prices at the auction floors.
However farmers are hoping that the auction floors will open later than usual to allow them more time to process the crop that will enable them to fetch better prices at the auction floors.
Drought and pessimism about leaf prices has contributed to a decline of the area put under the crop from 93 419 hectares last season to 89 500 hectares this year.
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