The move would translate into reduced revenue flows for the country as the agricultural sector has for long been touted as the backbone of the country’s economy.
For a decade and half, since the start of the millenium, Zimbabwe’s economy has been in decline after the chaotic land reform programme was initiated.
Last week, after Day 59 of this year’s selling season, the latest tobacco sales update from the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) showed 138,4 million kilogrammes of the golden leaf worth US$407,2 million having gone under the hammer.
By the same day last season, 149 million kilogrammes had been sold which had raked in US$474 million in revenue.
TIMB chief executive officer Dr Andrew Matibiri earlier this year said they were confident tobacco was on the recovery path, saying production levels would be determined by “markets and availability of funding”.
The average selling price had also fallen this season, from last season’s US$3,18 down to this year’s US$2,94.
At the beginning of this year’s season, police battled angry farmers who were rioting against low buying prices between of between US$0,10 and US$3,10 being offered at the auction floors. The low buying price was a result of poor quality of the golden leaf delivered at the auction floors.
So far, 1, 874 751 bales had been laid at the floors this season compared to a higher 2, 065 373 last year.
Of the total laid this year, 1, 721 200 bales had been sold, while 153 549 had been rejected for various reasons. The same period last year saw 1, 950 748 bales sold, while 114 625 bales had been turned away.
Even the number of registered growers for the 2015-16 season so far is lower than the same period last year.
A commentary from TIMB read: “To date, about 96 783 growers have registered for 2015 season as compared to about 104 737 who had registered by the same period last year.”
Tobacco was currently the biggest export earner in Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector.
Zimbabwe attained a high of 256 million kilogrammes before the turn of the millennium, but the sector has found it tough to reach a similar figure in the past few years, with the period between 2007 and 2009 showing production plunging down to a lowly 56 million kilogrammes.