Several farmers who spoke to The Zimbabwean recently at Boka Tobacco Floors pointed fingers at officials as the chief culprits. “The officials we work with have turned out to be an enemy within. These are the people we are supposed to work well with but greed has turned them into crooks. They are ripping us off,” lamented one irate farmer, Denford Nyamayaro of Mount Darwin.
He said he offered 16 bales of tobacco, which were bought for $1,60 per kilogramme, despite being of the same quality product that fetched up $4,00 during the previous auctions.
“Some farmers are getting as little as 20 cents. Most tobacco is pegged at $1,00 and if you refuse that price they force you to sell your tobacco outside the floors where you will get $2,00 – only to find your tobacco back inside going for $4,00,” he said.
Another farmer from Zvimba, Mareva Pasipanodya, demanded answers as to how the same tobacco quality he has maintained over the past seasons suddenly fetched a lower price this year.
“I have been a tobacco farmer for the past four years and I have been satisfied with the prices before but now I don’t know how my tobacco with the same quality as the one I sold here before is being sold for peanuts. I suspect that there is a political hand behind this,” said Pasipanodya.
Other farmers alleged that auction floor agents undercharged quality tobacco to farmers who were reluctant to offer them bribes. They then purchased the very same tobacco and resold it at a much higher rate.
Most farmers threatened to abandon tobacco farming in the forthcoming season, opting to revert back to maize production.
“I think it’s best if I start maize farming again. Because the money I received this year does not even cover half the expenses I incurred. Most farmers here faced the same challenges and are also thinking of abandoning tobacco farming. It’s no longer that viable considering the little that we are getting,” said Lazarus Mazonde of Nyazura.
Efforts to get a comment from tobacco floor officials were in vain as the manager was said to be attending to other pressing matters. Seasoned tobacco farmer Jacob Muringe of Mount Darwin said most new farmers did not treat their tobacco properly, hence the low prices. “I know most farmers say tobacco is no longer that paying but that is a lie.
Tobacco irikubhadhara baba (Tobacco is paying good money). The problem is that most new and inexperienced farmers don’t know how to treat the leaf well. That’s where the real problem is,” said Muringe.
Tobacco farming generated over $600 million last year leading to a sharp increase in new farmers.
The figures from the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) show that 87,281 growers registered for this year’s farming season with 26,816 recorded as new farmers.Post published in: Agriculture