Elita Chikwati Agriculture Reporter
THE Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board and auction companies will this marketing season restrict the number of people entering auction floors to curb illegal activities by middlemen. This follows complaints by farmers that middlemen, popularly known as Class B buyers, were wreaking havoc and ripping off farmers of their crop and money. TIMB discovered that most of these buyers were stealing from farmers by claiming that they could influence the prices on the floor. Other middlemen offered low prices for rejected bales and later sold the same crop at a higher price at the auction floors.
This resulted in farmers losing a lot of money while the middlemen got the biggest share. Boka Tobacco Floors operations manager Mr Moses Bias said there would be tight security at the premises and not everyone would be allowed on the auction floors.
“We want to maintain order. We realised that most people who caused havoc in the auction floors last season were not real farmers but middlemen who wanted to capitalise on the situation.
“This season, only bona fide farmers will be allowed in the auction floor. “We have security staff to monitor the delivery of the crop. Farmers will only produce a sales sheet to collect bales.
“We have enough space for farmers whose crop would have been rejected. We will also work with the police,” he said. Premier Tobacco Floors managing director Mr Philemon Mangena said the floor used to experience problems as whole families would come to witness the sale.
“Family members may come but we will be restricting participation inside the floor. We will work with police to ensure there are no middlemen for ease of doing business. We will also monitor the delivery and dispatch areas,” he said.
Tobacco Sales Floor said it had introduced identity cards to make staff identifiable so that there would not be cases of middlemen interfering with sales. TIMB chairperson Mrs Monica Chinamasa said only bona fide farmers and company personnel with visible identity would be allowed on the auction floors to keep out middlemen. She said there was need to have fewer people on the floor to maintain order and improve standards.
“We cannot have the whole clan witnessing the sale,” she said. The tobacco selling season will open tomorrow. Tobacco production has declined by 20 percent this season and prices are expected to firm. TIMB also introduced a new payment system that will see farmers having their money deposited into bank accounts instead of receiving cash.