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Independent tobacco farmers left in the cold



SOME independent tobacco growers in Hurungwe, one of the country’s prime farming districts, have been left in the cold by merchants who have flooded Karoi town but are refusing to accept their crop, The NewsHawks has established.

This has forced some farmers to sell the golden leaf in Harare, thereby incurring additional and unbudgeted costs.

‘‘We are facing a real challenge as free farmers who are not contracted by any merchant. I came here with confidence that Boka Tobacco Company and Tobacco Sales Floors (TSF) were auction floors but, to our surprise, they have rejected our tobacco, saying they are not auction floors. We are left in the cold over this confusion,’’ said David Goredema, a communal farmer from Chief Kazangarare’s area.

The rural area is situated about 60 kilometres north of Karoi.

Several farmers came into the town a few days before the auction floors opened, only to be told that these platforms are buying tobacco only from contracted farmers.

“De-contracted farmers who are now free to sell at auction floors of their choice are paying the price as they have to go to Harare,’’ Goredema said.  

The farmer was frustrated that efforts by the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) to decentralise auction floors from Harare to outlying areas such as Karoi have hit a snag.

“We anticipated that things would change for the better after TIMB decentralised auction floors, but nothing is working out for us. We are facing challenges of transportation, accommodation and other challenges in Harare.”

Goredema is among several uncontracted farmers who have been battling to sell their tobacco since the auction floors opened early this month.

Another communal farmer, Ratidzai Muraya from Zvimonja under Chief Dandawa’s area, said her tobacco was rejected at Tobacco Sales Floor.

“I was looking forward to sell my 10 bales of prime tobacco at TSF, but they told me that there is no auction floor for us to sell our tobacco. They are serving contract farmers. We were told to go to Harare and it is not worth it for us,” she said.

Muraya (53) said she will have to make new plans and another journey to the capital city.

Lack of clarity
Tobacco Farmers’ Union of Zimbabwe (TFUZ) president Believe Tevera blamed the chaos on the lack of clarity on the decentralisation of tobacco floors.

‘‘The issue of auction floors needs a fair approach for farmers. There must be clarification from all players, including merchants. We only have three auction floors in Zimbabwe, which are TSF, Boka and Premier. These were not decentralised. Only contracting floors decentralised to other provinces and, for one to make a sale, he or she should use his grower number for contract selling. So I think it’s important to clarify that to farmers. This confusion has affected some farmers in Mvurwi who have to travel to Harare to sell their tobacco at the auction floors as before,’’  he said.

Zimbabwe’s golden leaf remains the single largest foreign currency earner after gold, with exports raking in US$736 million in 2020. However, farmers are crying foul over what they see as low prices.

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