Tobacco farmers in Zimbabwe have finally put their tobacco bales under the hammer on Wednesday.
Last year’s low prices and El Nino fears forced a significant number of farmers to abandon tobacco for food crops.
The official start to the selling season was delayed because of late rains, however the erratic rainfall hasn’t dampened farmers’ hopes for good returns this tobacco selling season.
The number of registered growers slumped from 91 000 to 72 000, down by almost 20 000.
Tobacco is one of the biggest export earners and in 2015, earned Zimbabwe $555 million from 189 million kilograms.
This year, the production is expected to slump to about 160 million kilogrammes.
Nevertheless, authorities are optimistic that tobacco will despite the reduction, be the main driver of economic growth.
The euphoria over high opening prices has quickly dissipated as prices drop rapidly.
Farmer Stanley Ngandu’s crop was tagged at $4.40 a kg but buyers have rejected it as too high.
Most bales are in the $2 dollar, while some are as low as 16 cents a kilogramme.
Some farmers say the prices are not viable and that they won’t be able to return to the field next season.
The selling season will run for the next four months.
Authorities say the official projections for the 2016 will be released next week.