local cotton farmers in the border line areas of Mukumbura and Rushinga are smuggling their produce to Mozambique where they are being paid cash upon delivery.
Investigations by The Herald Business revealed that some farmers in Chionde, Chiwenga, Kakono and Gairezi in northern Zimbabwe were smuggling cotton through undesignated points at night and selling it to Olam Mozambique where they are paid in bond notes, US dollar or Mozambican metical. The bond notes are accepted in Mozambique.
Farmers who were interviewed by this newspaper this week confirmed that the prevailing cash shortages and poor mobile network connectivity in the remote areas were among the major reasons why they were smuggling cotton into the neighbouring country.
“Most companies are paying using EcoCash, but it is a big challenge because of poor network connectivity,” said George Mupukuta, a farmer contracted by Alliance Ginneries in Chionde.
“So were are left with no option but to sell to Olam Mozambique because we are paid cash (on spot).”
Olam Mozambique set up two buying points in Nyamupureti and Chikomora, about 15 kilometres from the border with Zimbabwe. Another farmer in Dande, Patrick Chakaipa said he sold some of his cotton in Mozambique because he wanted cash to buy livestock.
“I had 11 bales of cotton, but I sold some in Mozambique because I needed cash to buy cattle,” he said.
“Mobile transactions are a big problem especially here in remote areas. In addition, we also buy most of our groceries from Mozambique and we cannot pay using EcoCash.”
Peter Antonio, a headman of Marara in Mozambique confirmed helping farmers to smuggle their cotton through his village.
“I have facilitated smuggling of cotton to Mozambique because farmers are preferring to deliver their produce to Mozambique where they are getting hard cash,” said Mr Antonio said in an interview. An official with The Cotton Company of Zimbabwe Mr Smart Chipara said the company lost significant volumes the crop through smuggling.
“Smuggling has become a major challenge. Farmers are taking the crop to Mozambique during the night and this is being worsened by the prevailing cash shortages,” Mr Chipara, an extension officer in Gairezi/Chikuyo said.
We have many farmers who have admitted to smuggling cotton.” The situation is the same in Nyatigo and Nyatsato near Rushinga where farmers are also preferring to sale their produce to Mozambique.