Tobacco earnings have increased by 1 300 percent to US$8,3 million in the first five days of the 2020 marketing season, compared to US$588 322 recorded in the same period last year.
Latest statistics from the Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (TIMB) show that tobacco growers have sold about 3,6 million kg at an average price of US$2,34 per kg compared to 372 894kg sold in the same period last year at an average price of US$1,58 per kg.
The bulk of the crop has come from the contract floors.
Almost 3,4 million kg of tobacco worth US$8,2 million have been sold through the contract floors at an average price of US$2,36 per kg.
Tobacco growers have sold 107 774kg worth US$186 356 at an average price of US$1,73 per kg through auction floors.
However, farmers have called for a review of the TIMB regulations barring trucks with less than seven tonnes carrying capacity, from delivering tobacco to the floors.
The regulation was meant to reduce the number of farmers visiting the floors to fight the spread of Covid-19.
Some small-scale tobacco growers have over the years used small trucks to deliver their crop to the floors and now find it expensive to hire bigger trucks.
There are fears that transporters with the recommended vehicles could take advantage of desperate farmers and charge exorbitantly to ferry the crop to the floors.
Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) executive director, Mr Paul Zakariya, yesterday confirmed they had received appeals from farmers for a review of the transport regulation.
The ZFU would approach TIMB over the issue.
“While we cannot say the issue of transporters is the main cause why there are low deliveries to the auction floors, some farmers have raised concern over the regulation. What is happening is normal. During the first days, farmers test the markets and deliver the crop when they feel the prices are most favourable.
“We are less than a week into the marketing season and it is too early to conclude that the issue of transport has affected deliveries. We have, however, received numerous complaints from farmers over the transport requirements,” he said.
Some smallholder farmers bought small trucks, which they were using to ferry their crop to the market to avoid high transport costs.
Zimbabwe National Farmers’ Union vice president, Mr Edward Dune, also raised the concern over the issue of transporters.
“The prices offered by buyers are fair, but our concern is on transport. The requirement will disadvantage most farmers. Contractors have structures that enable them to reach out to many farmers.
“Those farmers in rural areas rely on the small trucks and it will be difficult for them to mobilise the recommended transport,” he said.
Boka Tobacco Floors managing director, Mrs Chido Nyakudya, said the auction floor was important as it was the one that set the price of the crop, adding there had been an improvement in deliveries to auction floors, although they remained lower than expectations.
Mrs Nyakudya said most tobacco farmers were small-scale and relied on small trucks to ferry their crop to the floors.