Tobacco farmers lament over decentralization of auction floors

Tobacco farmers are losing thousands of dollars from unscrupulous ‘middlemen’ who offer them low prices for their golden leaf outside the auction floors in the capital, Zim Morning Post has learnt.

Karoi– A bid by Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (TIMB) to open auction floors within tobacco farming regions   has not paid off as Hurungwe farmers are crying foul over poor sales and delayed payments .

Investigations made by  Zim Morning Post has revealed that not all buying companies took heed to TIMB call.

Jonas Banda of Tengwe, 60 kilometers east of Karoi said the bid by TIMB has remained a pie in the sky. “TIMB’s call that auction floors must be within areas where tobacco is grown to cushion farmers from transport costs has been a disaster as few companies heeded the call.

Unfortunately, companies based in Harare gave farmers inputs but now the biggest challenge is that farmers are spending sleepless nights to regain financial ruin as  bale from Hurungwe to Harare is charged over $45, while  wrapping materials costing as from $10 to $15.

“ With such low prices offered from as low as 30 c per kg, farmers are left with nothing” he said. Several famers are crying foul but no one has come to their rescue over poor prices as well as decentralized cause by TIMB.

 However, Ishemunyoro Moyo, TIMB public relations manager defended the tobacco regulatory body for doing it’s best under difficult circumstances.

 Moyo said as a regulator they work with farmers unions whose mandate is to represent farmers.

 “We create an enabling environment for farmers unions to air their concerns to responsible authorities. The Monetary Policy Statement said farmers were only entitled to 30% of their proceeds in forex, but we worked with farmers unions to lobby with the  Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe that resulted in farmers being allocated 50% of proceeds in forex and 50% at prevailing interbank rate.

We ensured we registered many buyers so that we jncrease competition for the golden leaf. As such all the tobacco produced in Zimbabwe finds a buyer and we do not have a quota system to limit farmers on what to sell” said Moyo in written response. However, tobacco is determined by market forces of demand and supply that has a bearing on both local, regional or International prices, he added.

Moyo explained that there is no “price control” in the tobacco industry.

A communal farmer Charles Rambira of Kazangarare about 75 kilometers north of Karoi complained that tobacco farming is not working for the better.

“These contract companies didn’t give farmers required inputs and this another form of exploitation,” he said.

  Moyo insisted that TIMB has played it’s role to help out.

 Said Moyo:

 ” In a bid to protect farmers we also lobbied the RBZ together with merchants to remove the 2% transactional tax which caused low prices during the first days of the marketing season as merchants were not buying in their numbers”

With the situation on the ground, the golden leaf is likely to be a replica of cotton farming that has left traces of desperation, lost hope in revival of farming sector in areas such as Muzarabani, Kanyemba in Mashonaland Central, parts of Mashonaland West as well as Gokwe in Midlands provinces.

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