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tobacco growers may shun auctions next season
August 20, 2008
About 70 percent of Zimbabwe's
tobacco may be sold on contract direct to merchants next year, with
farmers avoiding the traditional Harare-based auction houses, the
government's Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board said.
``That situation may
help raise production because farmers growing on contract generally
receive assistance in sourcing inputs from the merchants,'' Andrew
Matibiri, chief executive of the board, said in a telephone interview
today from the capital, Harare. ``There is a shortage of inputs,
Tobacco farmers traditionally
sell their leaf through three auction houses, including Tobacco
Sales Floor Ltd., the world's biggest. The country produces mainly
flue-cured tobacco which rivals the U.S. for quality. TSF competes
with privately owned Zimbabwe Tobacco Auction Center and Burley
Marketing Zimbabwe (Pvt) Ltd.
Production has slumped
from a high of 235 million kilograms (517 million pounds) in 2000,
the year President Robert Mugabe began the often-violent seizure
of most of Zimbabwe's white- owned farms. The country produced 75
million kilograms of mainly high-grade, flue-cured tobacco last
The number of merchants
contracting farmers will increase from 13 last season to 17, Matibiri
said. Zimbabwe's tobacco season, from planting to marketing, generally
lasts 13 months.
Deliveries of the crop
have fallen to 36.6 million kilograms since sales began in April,
compared with 50 million kilograms in the same period last year.
The southern African nation expects to harvest 70 million kilograms
of tobacco this year, Matibiri added.
Though output has plummeted,
tobacco remains Zimbabwe's single most valuable commodity, accounting
for 18 percent of the country's $759 million exports between January
and June 30 this year. The entire mining industry, including exports
of platinum, gold, ferrochrome and nickel, accounted for 53 percent,
Harare- based economist John Robertson said in Harare today.
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