HARARE, March 21 (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe's 2018 tobacco marketing season opened Wednesday with about 200 million kilograms of the golden leaf expected to go under the hammer, up from 186.3 million kg sold last year.
The highest opening price was 4.90 U.S. dollars per kg, up from 4.60 dollars last year.
Zimbabwe's vice president Constantino Chiwenga opened the selling season and commended contractors for financing the bulk of the crop at 82 percent.
"Government appreciates the coming on board of the tobacco contracting companies where they financed 82 percent of the crop in the 2017/2018 agricultural season," he said.
"I therefore wish to commend the contracting companies for providing this much needed support as it has enabled farmers to increase production and improve the quality of the golden leaf."
Chiwenga urged tobacco growers to continuously device mechanisms to improve the quality of their crop and boost earnings.
He said government will extend its command agriculture program, started with maize production in 2016, to tobacco farming in 2019.
"I am elated to report that, government has extended the tobacco contract model to the same category as maize production program, commonly known as 'Command agriculture' which recently has been extended to cover wheat, soya beans, livestock, fisheries and wildlife production," he said.
Tobacco merchants have mobilized 500 million dollars to buy the crop, down from 700 spent last season.
Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board chairperson Monica Chinamasa urged increased investment in irrigation to mitigate the effects of climate change on tobacco production.
Tobacco is one of Zimbabwe's top foreign currency earners.
"The crop before us was grown under two extremes of weather characterized by delayed rains in the first half of the season and excessive rains in the second half of the season.
"The delayed rains in the first half of the season have reaffirmed the need to invest more in irrigation development to mitigate the effects of climate change," she said.
Zimbabwe sold 186.3 million kg of tobacco worth 552.8 million dollars.