The tobacco-selling season started in Zimbabwe on Wednesday at a sales floor packed with bales of harvested and cured leaves, but a persistent drought has cut into the southern African nation's main export earner this year.

Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board chairwoman Monica Chinamasa said there was a 20 percent decline from 198,000 tons produced last year.

Hundreds of farmers, including women with babies strapped on their backs, converged at the Tobacco Sales Floor in the capital Harare to auction their crop. Small trucks with bails of tobacco lined the streets outside, as anxious farmers were directed to various drop-off points.

Godfrey Chirau, a farmer who traveled about 100 kilometers (60 miles) to sell his leaves, said due to a low yield he could not secure a loan that would have allowed him to better prepare his land.

Parts of southern Africa are experiencing drought caused by the El Nino effect.