Labour crisis threatened the reaping of thousands of tobacco hectarage

tobacco_cropMUTARE - Newly resettled farmers in Manicaland are faced with crisis of a shortage of labour as most of them are not in a position to pay for the labour.

This has threatened the reaping of thousands of tobacco hectarage estimated to run into millions on dollars which is ready for the market, a farmers representative has said.

Joseph Serima who is chairperson of the Nyazura Farmers Syndicate, comprising more than 100 farmers who were resettled under the states controversial land reform program said the farmers affected are in the areas around Nyazura, Rusape and Odzi among other areas in the province.

Serima said many of their membership are faced with a dilemma; they have no workers to help reap tobacco. He argues the farmers are not financially stable enough to attract employees.

Farmers do not have the money at the moment to pay for labour. Last year was a drought and most farmers do not have the capital to fund labour for the tobacco harvesting. We may incur loses if we fail to get the tobacco off the fields in time, Serima said.

He however would not give the estimated tobacco at risk from the concerned farmers.

We do not have the figures for the area covered with tobacco, but the tobacco is valued at millions of dollars.

The farmer said what is needed now is for farmers, union officials, workers representatives and banks to discuss the way forward.

He explains banks have to offer farmers a lifeline, in the form of loans.

Only if we get togethers as stakeholders from the financial institution and labour representatives to chat the way forward.

The General Agriculture and Plantation Workers Unions Gift Muti said he needed more time to check on the matter.

I am not in the know of the problem in manicaland but I will have to investigate, but generally farmers do not have the capital to pay labour in general terms, said Muti, speaking from Harare.

Another official representing the National Employment Council, NEC for the agriculture sector in Manicaland province, said it was clear growers resettled under the states land redistribution program are financially challenged.

He urged the new commercial farmers to source new funding avenues and, in so doing, avoid making losses.

I would advise the farmers to look for other partners in this field as banks are reluctant to offer them loans owing to a poor repayment record, he said.

Some banks are wary of new famers as many dont have collateral.

Financial institutions are reportedly also refusing to recognize 99-year lease agreements with the state as security, despite a government directive ordering them to do so.

Post published in: Economy

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