Tobacco farmers losing thousands of dollars to ‘middlemen’

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

Zim Morning Post established that unscrupulous buyers working in cahoots with a cartel of powerful individuals have employed agents who act as middlemen and ‘rob’  tobacco farmers  through buying at very low rates.

The transactions occur outside and inside the auction floors and the ‘middlemen’ resell at a higher price taking advantage of the fact that some farmers are incapacitated to afford accommodation for prolonged periods in the capital.

“What happens is these powerful people some of them ministers’ wives have their agents who buy the bales outside and they connive with the genuine buyers to condemn the grade of the leaf so that when the farmer is turned away or frustrated, the same tobacco finds its way back at higher price,” explained our inside source.

The farmers have come out guns blazing accusing the Tobacco Marketing Board (TIMB) of not protecting  them from these ‘vultures’ who prey on them because there is no ‘price control’ measures set by the  tobacco regulatory  body.

The farmers end up carrying a burden of huge debts they are obliged to settle to companies that advanced them with inputs.

Zim Morning Post visited the auction floors around Willowvale  area on Monday and farmers were visibly dejected.

“We have companies who provided us with assistance and they need their money but the money we are getting here is peanuts some are buying our tobacco at USD 0.35 just imagine what I will be left with after repaying the loans, I will be left with nothing and nothing at all,” said one farmer who identified himself as Tatenda Mangwiro.

Another elderly farmer accused TIMB of failing to protect the golden leaf farmers from buyers and middlemen.

“TIMB should protect us from buyers and middlemen who want to benefit from our hard labour, just imagine a loaf of bread is more expensive than a kilo(sic) of tobacco, I do not think that next season I will be farming tobacco.

“I would rather switch to farming maize,” said Given Nyamayaro.

Tobacco Association of Zimbabwe (TAZ) Business Development Manager Garikayi Oscar Makuyah said his organisation  is deeply concerned with  the abuse of farmers and the failure of TIMB to protect them.

“TAZ is there to protect farmers from criminals like those buyers and middlemen who do not want to pay enough money to the deserving farmers who invest in this farming business.

“TIMB  is supposed to protect farmers but surprisingly some board members (names supplied)  are now being implicated in cartels which are ripping off farmers, we are going to make sure that this ends and farmers be paid what belongs to them,” said Makuyah.

TIMB director Andrew Matibiri referred all questions  

 to public relations manager Ishemunyoro Moyo who advised this reporter to send questions in writing.

He however did not respond to the questions by the time of publication on Tuesday.

Moyo is however on record saying his organization has tried its level best to protect 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 that we registered many buyers so that we increase 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,”  Moyo told this publication in an interview a few weeks ago.