Calls to extend tobacco auction system mount

By Tendai Munengwa

The announcement by Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board, TIMB, to close the tobacco auction system this Friday has triggered high volumes at auction floors and prompted farmers to call for an extension of the marketing season to mid-August. 

A visit by ZBC News to one of auction floors shows that several farmers who grew free tobacco have started delivering high volumes of the golden leaf. 

One of the floors, Premier Auction, was at peak this Tuesday as farmers delivered high volumes with some of them queuing for their chance to sale their tobacco. 

The farmers however appealed to government and TIMB to extend the marketing season to mid-August as they are still delivering leaf. 

“To close the floors by this Friday will affect most of us because due to late rains. Most farmers we are at the peak of processing and delivering. We appeal to government to engage TIMB and allow us a grace period of at three weeks so that we deliver,” a farmer said.

Another noted, “TIMB should listen to the farmers. We request the regulatory authority to extend the closing date by at least three weeks so that all farmers with free tobacco are taken care of.”

A tobacco marketing expert, Sam Garaba concurred with farmers for TIMB to consider their plea to extend the marketing season owing to the availability of late crop. 

“Most farmers planted late and they are saying they still have a huge chunk of tobacco to deliver. So, it will be prudent for the regulatory authority to listen to the farmers as denying them the market will be tantamount to promoting side marketing.”

TIMB spokesperson, Chelesani Moyo responded to the outcry by farmers. 

“We have done consultations with stakeholders and the decision to close was made out of consensus.” But I will consult with my bosses on the outcry by farmers.”

Meanwhile, information gathered by the ZBC News crew indicates that the probability to extend the auction marketing system is high, considering the high volumes being delivered and free tobacco reported to be still out in the farms.