At least 218 million kg of flue cured tobacco worth US$423 million have been sold so far since the opening of the 2018/19 marketing season.

However, the latest figures reflect a five percent drop from 227 million kg of the golden leaf sold during the same period last year.

The beginning of the marketing season was characterised by subdued deliveries as some farmers adopted a wait-and-see approach, while others withdrew sales because of the low prices.

A sudden shift in pricing, now averaging US$1,95 per kg,  has resulted in improved sales, according to the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board spokesperson, Mr Isheunesu Moyo.

“Signs for all to see are there and we anticipate increased activity despite the slowdown to the season that also eroded earnings,” he said.

However, in terms of earnings they have been reduced by 36 percent compared to US$600 million during the marketing season under review.

The decentralisation of the tobacco auction floors in key strategic production areas has also contributed positively to deliveries, while easing the burden of transport costs for the majority of the growers.

Tobacco, which is grown by more than 170,000 mostly small scale farmers, is Zimbabwe’s second biggest earner of foreign exchange after mining.