By Tafara Mugwara
Zimbabwe’s 2020 tobacco marketing season came to an end on Monday with about 77 million kg of the golden leaves having gone under the hammer.
Tobacco in Zimbabwe is sold through auction and contract arrangements with the selling season traditionally beginning in March.
This year’s tobacco marketing season commenced in April after several deferments due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The volumes sold through the auction floors this year declined by 23 percent from 232 million kg worth 456 million U.S. dollars sold during the same period last year.
However, auction floors remain open, but will only conduct a sale once it has received enough volumes from the farmers.
Boka Tobacco Floors (BTF) Managing Director Chido Nyakudya told Xinhua on Tuesday that despite various challenges posed by the pandemic and unfavorable rainfall patterns in some of the country’s tobacco-farming regions, the 2020 marketing season was largely a success.
“So it was very challenging for us in the beginning, however, we managed to put all the guidelines from the Ministry of Health, and I am very happy to say that we didn’t have any incidences of COVID-19 in all of our facilities,” he said.
“The rainfall patterns affected the tobacco crop. From the projections, at the beginning of the season, the crop was projected to be around 220 million kgs, but now we are almost on 185 million kgs, but the season is almost done,” Nyakudya said.
Nyakudya said in order to bring convenience to farmers, BTF has over the past two years embraced the decentralization of tobacco marketing across the country, a move that also helped curb the spread of COVID-19.
“That greatly helped in making sure that farmers don’t have to travel across the country to sell their crops,” she said.
BTF owns the largest tobacco auction floors in Zimbabwe.
Tobacco is Zimbabwe’s second foreign currency earner after gold, with China and South Africa being the major buyers of the golden leaf.
Last year, the country sold 259 million kg of tobacco leaf worth 518 million U.S. dollars.
Over the years, tobacco production in Zimbabwe has steadily gone up driven by increased support mainly from the private sector and China, who have contracted tobacco farmers to produce the crop.