The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board has expressed satisfaction over the preparedness of tobacco auction floors for the marketing season which starts next week.
The TIMB team, led by the board chairperson Mrs Monica Chinamasa, yesterday toured Premier Tobacco Floors, Boka Tobacco Floors, Tobacco Sales Floor, Chidziva Tobacco Processors and Zimbabwe Leaf Tobacco.
TIMB said all the visited floors were compliant on security, ablution facilities, banking facilities, clinics, borehole water supply and tanks and back-up generators among other requirements.
During the tour, Mrs Chinamasa emphasised the need for auction and contract floors to prepare for the new payment scheme and ensure they engaged banks willing to work with the floors.
“I am impressed by the level of preparedness of the farmers. They met the TIMB and as a board we are confident that whatever challenges that come in the way, the floors are experienced enough to deal with it.
“This season we expect a small crop. About 20 percent less from last season and this may translate to firm prices. We urge farmers to pay attention to curing, grading and presentation of their tobacco so the crop may fetch high prices. Tobacco is sold on the quality of the leaf. A farmer with a low quality crop should not expect high prices.
“Zimbabwe is renowned for its high quality tobacco which has a unique flavour. That is why merchants are coming here and this is what we must give them,” she said.
Mrs Chinamasa applauded the stance taken by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe not to pay farmers cash and said the move was a positive one that would enable farmers to be bankable, have track records and access funding in future.
“This will also reduce impulse buying by farmers. A farmer only needs a grower’s number and identification number to open an account. This is a special account that does not attract huge costs,” she said.
At ZLT, the staff felt that the new payment method may face teething problems because of liquidity challenges. They suggested that farmers be given an option to choose suitable payment modalities.
Mrs Chinamasa said the move was also meant to benefit the economy as many people will now be banked.
“Only 30 percent of the people are banked. We should encourage people to bank money and the move was also meant to improve the economy.
“We are Zimbabweans and no one can craft something that will not help our economy. This is the time that auction floors have to choose banks to work with,” she said.
PTF managing director Mr Philemon Mangena welcomed the move taken by RBZ and said it will protect farmers from thieves and unscrupulous business people.
“We welcome the step taken by RBZ to ensure farmers are paid through banks. Farmers will be able to plan and use their money wisely without buying impulsively.
“We have already started carrying out awareness campaigns to farming areas to educate farmers on the new payment system so they will not experience problems when they bring their crop.”
He said the floor will have some cash to assist farmers who face emergencies before they access their money.
Chidziva Tobacco Processors contract floor managing director Mr Kevin Buter said they are ready for the season.
“We have complied with the TIMB requirements and we are ready for the season. We have enough storage space of the bales and the crop will not be affected by the rains,” he said.
TIMB licensed three auction floors, 18 buyers and 18 contractors.