HARARE, March 15 (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe's 2017 tobacco marketing season opened Wednesday with the highest price of 4.60 U.S. dollars per kg, higher than 3.50 dollars last year.
The crop is for the first time being sold through the electronic auction system, introduced to improve transparency in tobacco selling.
The system allows buyers and sellers to conduct their business on-line without physical contact, which in the past has been blamed for collusion on pricing.
Agriculture Minister Joseph Made said the opening price was "a good start for the farmers considering that this is still lower quality leaf."
He said prices are expected to firm as the selling season progresses.
About 184 million kg would be sold to contract buyers while about 16 million kg will be sold through auction floors, the minister said.
The country is expecting to produce 205 million kg of tobacco in 2017, slightly higher than the 202 million kg last year.
Buyers had secured 700 million U.S. dollars offshore funding to purchase the crop, the biggest export earner for the country.
China has been the biggest buyer of Zimbabwean tobacco leaf, buying over 50 percent of the crop.
Monetary authorities are hopping the tobacco selling season will help improve a cash crisis that has been raging for a year now, which has seen banks capping cash withdrawal limits to as low as 50 dollars per day. Enditem