THE 2014 tobacco marketing season opened on Wednesday with the first bale selling at US$4,85 dollars per kilogramme, 35 cents more than the US$4,50 dollars offered last year.
The price had started at $6,75 before going down to $4,85 dollars after finding no takers. The lowest grade sold was for 60 cents for the first sale at Tobacco sales floor (TSF).
Tobacco earnings expected to top the US$616 million achieved in the prior year on higher output, providing relief to an economy starved of liquidity.
Output is seen at between 175 million kilogrammes and 185 million kg after 91,000 farmers, mostly small-scale growers, registered to grow the crop for the current season compared to the 65,500 from the previous season.
Last year, the yield was 167 million kg which sold at an average US$3,69 percent per kg.
Tobacco is Zimbabwe's single largest foreign currency earner.
Speaking at the official opening, Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (Timb) Chairperson Monica Chinamasa said more than 88,000 farmers had registered this season compared to 65 444 same period last year.
"Of the 88,000 that registered, 26,816 are new growers. The growth in the tobacco sector is attributed to the support provided by contractors," she said.
Chinamasa said contractors supported more than 54 percent of the current registered growers and funded 72 percent of the total planted area for the 2013-14 season.
She said the TIMB introduced monitoring and evaluation systems to evaluate the performance of contractors in terms of the cost of inputs and timeliness of disbursement of these to farmers.
"I urge growers and contractors to refrain from side marketing," Chinamasa said.
The board also licensed 15 contractors with Mashonaland Tobacco Company, licensed to buy the crop from Karoi, Mvurwi and Rusape.
TIMB licensed 20 auction floor buyers this season compared to 15 last year.