Tobacco farmers cry foul

By Tendai Munengwa

TOBACCO farmers have been left stranded after the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) decided to limit the extended trading period to just a day per week.

The decision to close auction floors on Wednesday last week did not go down well with tobacco farmers, prompting government to intervene and direct the TIMB to extend the marketing season.

In response, TIMB came up with a controversial schedule limiting trade at the auction floors to a day per week at the expense of thousands of farmers who delayed planting owing to late rains.

Farmer organisations have come out guns blazing, questioning why the TIMB is defying a government directive.

 “We are surprised and confused at the same time why TIMB is not considering the fact that a big chunk of tobacco crop is still to be delivered owing to late rains. Our offices are inundated with calls from our members who are crying foul over the closure of the auction system. Why should TIMB open contract sales and close auction where our farmers are getting lucrative prices. We challenge the regulatory board to open the auction floors to enable farmers to deliver their crop,” said Paul Zakaria – Zim Farmers Union Secretary General.

We are not in agreement with what TIMB suggested, to open once a week for auction while contract sales are allowed to rip our farmers. Why should TIMB force auction floors to close? This is unfair to our farmers who are yet to deliver their crop, noted Tobacco Association of Zimbabwe Representative, George Seremwe.

A survey conducted by ZBC News this Monday revealed that thousands of farmers have been left stranded after the floors were closed prematurely.

We carried our own assessment and found out that due to late rains there is still plenty of tobacco in Manicaland, Mashonaland East and Central. As you can see, some had delivered their tobacco at the weekend but because of the schedule by TIMB to limit auction sales to one day they are forced to go back home,” noted Dzingai Masara – Premier Tobacco Auction Spokesperson.

Observers feel that while the impact of climate change is real, the TIMB should put the interest of farmers first as they are the goose which lays the golden eggs.