Outspoken Norton member of parliament Temba Mliswa and Finance minister Mthuli Ncube are on a collision course over the pricing of tobacco which hit an all- time low this season.
Mliswa labelled Ncube a liar after he told Parliament last week that the low tobacco price was a result of unfavourable weather conditions.
“When we look at the agricultural sector and how to improve the tobacco sales, we must first of all look at the reasons.
“It has been really the poor rainfall pattern this season which has impacted the tobacco sector and lowered the average prices for tobacco,” said Ncube.
Mliswa then interjected and disputed the finance minister’s assertion.
“Tobacco was not affected by the rains, it was the price.
“Maize was affected by the rain, I am a farmer and it was a good tobacco season. So, you must not lie,” said Mliswa who was asked by the speaker to withdraw the use of the word ‘lie’ and he resorted to replace it with ‘misleading’.
“ I withdraw the word lying and replace it with misleading because we had a good tobacco season but it was the prices which were not good,” he insisted.
Ncube acknowledged that the prices were low but he said he made consultations with tobacco experts who advised him that the quality of the crop was impacted by the late onset of the season and rain pattern
He said he has approached industry players in regards increasing the price and he was making inroads.
“What we have been doing in trying to move the price upwards is to speak to some of the tobacco merchants to make sure that they could start offering higher prices and we are having conversations with them.
“When I visited the tobacco floors a couple of months ago, I was told that the 2% tax was impacting transactions and trading on the floor.
“I immediately gave an exemption on that.
“I am delighted that I got a positive response,” said Mtuli.
Meanwhile, tobacco farmers have been lamenting over being duped by ‘middlemen’ at the auction floors with reports that cartels led by influential individuals including a former minister’s wife (name withheld) were the kingpins of this well-orchestrated scheme.
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.
*HON. PROF. M. NCUBE*: If I can carry on, looking at the tobacco prices, if you look at the average prices at TSF, it is US$1.66 per kg, Boka is US$1.59 per kg and Premium Tobacco Floors is US$1.55 per kg. The average is about US$1.77 per kg. Certainly the prices are lower because last year the average was US$2.76 per kg. Basically, it is like there is a 38% drop in the average price of tobacco. The Hon. Member who asked the question was right that there are issues in the sector and prices is one of the issues
. In trying to answer some of the things that we have done, those are some of the things that we have done.