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Tobacco buyer suspended for failing to pay farmers

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THE Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) has suspended the operating licence of Pamuka
Leaf (Pvt) Ltd following the company’s failure to pay farmers for tobacco deliveries made between May
and July.

DUMISANI NYONI

Pumuka, an off-taker of Mashonaland Tobacco Company (MTC), failed to pay farmers, who delivered the golden leaf between May and July worth US$26 793 in addition to ZW$678 204.

TIMB chief executive Andrew Matibiri confirmed the development to The NewsHawks.

“I can confirm that their operations and licence have been suspended on account of that (failing to pay farmers). They failed to pay farmers that sold tobacco to them,” he said.

Farmers, who spoke to this publication, however, said following its suspension, Pamuka was now offloading them to another company called Agritrade without their consent.

“It’s criminal that Pamuka is simply transferring us to Agritrade without our approval. We tried to resist, but it’s like our pleas are falling on deaf ears,” an affected farmer said.

Another farmer said Pamuka refused to give her a de-contract letter so that she could be given inputs by Hunyaradzo Farming, a contractor of her choice.

A source close to the developments said the TIMB and Pamuka were fooling farmers.

“So without a licence, legally Pamuka shouldn’t operate, but as we speak they are offloading farmers to licensed contractors and will obviously get paid a commission. One wonders if they will pay taxes and commissions, considering that they are an unlicensed and unrecognised entity,” the source said.

“Who will provide extension services to these farmers? Who will listen to their queries and attend to them, and as who? Are these farmers not at risk of having done to them what happened with other farmers, who haven’t been paid their money?

“The rot stinks I tell you. Someone needs to protect these farmers. Pamuka, obviously not having a licence, will do anything to put some money in their pockets, but it will be at the expense of unwitting and desperate farmers. And this will be done by a company operating outside the legal framework of TIMB licensing.”

Contacted for comment, Matibiri said: “We are aware of that because those were some of the arrangements that we made so that the farmers would not be prejudiced.

“They have got a choice because this is the main contractor, the main off-taker, because it’s tobacco that was contracted by Pamuka bought by another company. So the main company (MTC) gave the farmers the option of being transferred to another company under their wing. But if they don’t like, the farmers are quite free to decline
the offer.”

Efforts to get a comment from Pamuka were fruitless.

Tobacco is one of the biggest foreign currency earners in the country, with data from the TIMB showing that 180.8 million kilogrammes valued at US$452.3 million were delivered to the country’s contract and auction floors this year.

During the same period last year, 240 million kgs valued at US$479 million were delivered.

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