This year’s tobacco selling season was supposed to start in February this year as it has always every year. However the coronavirus sweeping across the entire world has caused delays that has seen the current lockdown being extended by two more weeks. To prevent further delays the government has resolved to have tobacco auction floors decentralised.

With regards to the tobacco sector, the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board has been sitting and consulting our (Covid-19 Inter-Ministerial) Taskforce and they have come to an arrangement where the tobacco auction floors are going to be decentralised countrywide to minimise crowding. 

In the process, they are going to observe the measures, that is social distancing, and also the question of accommodation will be regulated as to who comes and on which day, because the areas of concentration will be limited in terms of the centralisation.

President Mnangagwa speaking on the issue

An old idea that has failed in the past

Traditionally farmers have always had to travel to Harare’s auction floors whenever they wanted to sell tobacco. Tobacco buying companies, especially the small ones, don’t have the resources to sent buyers to multiple auction floors. This means less participants in the sale in each given floor and subsequently a low price for farmers.

The decentralisation strategy has been tried many times before and apart from contract farmers it has failed miserably. The coronavirus outbreak and the lockdown might just change that.