HARARE, March 15 (The Source) – Zimbabwe’s tobacco marketing season opened on Wednesday but its much hyped electronic auction system (e-auction) malfunctioned two hours into the first trading day, forcing buyers at the country’s biggest auction floor Boka, to revert to the traditional manual system.
Industry regulator Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) launched the system to stop possible price collusion and the practice of sharing by buyers, leading to better prices for growers.
But the system failed to effect the early trades delaying sales at Boka, which traditionally mark the beginning of the season, after several buyers were locked out of the automated auctioning system.
“The units are not linking between TIMB and the buyers so we had to revert to the manual system and the highest bale so far fetched $4,60 and considering that this is still lower quality leaf it is a very good start for the farmers,” Minister of Agriculture Joseph Made told journalists at the auction floor on Wednesday.
Made said as the season progresses the prices are expected to be firmer.
TIMB spokesperson Isheunesu Moyo said the system was functioning well at the other registered auction floors Tobacco Sales Floor (TSF) and Premier Tobacco.
Last year sales opened at $3,50 per kilogramme but prices quickly sunk to 20 cents per kg, leading to farmers protesting and stopping proceedings, calling the rates ‘exploitive’.
The southern African nation is expecting 202 million kg this year, similar to the previous season. Tobacco is Zimbabwe’s top export, and earns more than platinum and gold.
About 184 million kg will be sold to contract buyers while about 16 million kg will be sold via the auction floors.