Tobacco farmers need support

Tobacco farmers have called on the government to decentralize tobacco auction floors in order to combat transport difficulties.

A tobacco auctioneer in Harare where all producers congregate.
A tobacco auctioneer in Harare where all producers congregate.

Zimbabwe Farmers Union Director, Paul Zakariya, said the decentralization of auction floors would minimize the costs and improve the quality of the crop.

“Tobacco loses value if not transported properly and this will have a negative impact on the farmers because the price of the crop will be affected. Right now, farmers from across the country converge at auction floors in Harare and in some cases they spend more than a month sleeping out in the open,” said Zakariya.

TIMB laws

Meanwhile, the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board has proposed that buyers exhaust the local crop before importing burley tobacco in a move meant to save the sector from extinction. The proposal comes ahead of the opening of the 2012 selling season next month. TIMB chairperson, Monica Chinamasa, said that the move was also meant to keep growers on the land. “We encourage buyers to purchase the local crop in order to support local growers and producers,” she said.

Burley tobacco growers struggled to sell their crop after the closure of Burley Marketing Zimbabwe, an auction floor that was dedicated to the marketing of burley tobacco. The floor was sold to Savannah Tobacco, a cigarette manufacturing company, in 2010.

There was chaos last year after growers could not find a buyer for their crop. It was finally sold for a song at Boka Tobacco Floors.

Last year, the selling season opened with one floor running, Tobacco Sales Floor, while Boka and Millennium joined during the selling season.

Financial support

The board also resolved to come up with a plan to support tobacco growers facing liquidity constraints.

“We are looking at initiatives to support the grower. Tobacco contributes a huge chunk to the Gross Domestic Product, but that is not being reciprocated by those who allocate resources,” said Chinamasa. Growers under contract are well-catered for, but the rest are struggling to make ends meet. Tobacco production is on the increase, buoyed by favourable prices on the auction floor. In the 2011 season, 132,4 million kg were sold below the 170 million kg output which had been projected by Timb.

It raked in $361,5 million compared to the $355,6 million realised in 2010. At its peak in 2000, Zimbabwe produced 236 million kg of tobacco.

Post published in: Agriculture

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