Elita Chikwati Senior Reporter
The 2019 tobacco marketing starts today with farmers upbeat about a fruitful and organised season.
Sales will start at the auction floors while the contract sale floors will open tomorrow.
Expectations are that the crop will be of high quality, although the volumes may not reach last year’s output of 252 million kilogrammes, which is the highest in the history of the country. This is due to the El Nino-induced drought experienced this season.
Tobacco has contributed immensely to the growth of the agriculture sector and the country’s economy. It is the second largest foreign currency earner after gold.
According to the Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP), growth in agriculture is premised on performance of cash crops such as tobacco, cotton, sugar cane and soyabeans.
Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union director Mr Paul Zakariya yesterday said tobacco growers were expecting a smooth selling season.
“We expect viable prices to cushion farmers from increasing costs of production. Growers are expecting orderly marketing without unnecessary delays.
“All those things promised by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board, auction floors and contractors should be availed. We do not want to see any hiccups in the payment system which normally force farmers to stay at the auction floors for some days.
“I urge farmers to be organised. They should book before they deliver their crop for sale,” he said.
Farmers raised concern over some contractors who were putting a premium on inputs that they supplied to them while others urged the TIMB to protect them from unscrupulous insurance companies and farmer associations that were submitting claims for deductions from their payments without their consent.
Zimbabwe Tobacco Association representative Mr Rodney Ambrose applauded Government for the new payment arrangement but raised concern that the farmers should be treated the same.
“We are grateful to the Government and RBZ for coming up with a payment arrangement for this season. We commend RBZ Governor Dr John Mangudya and his directors for their open door policy and positive engagement with representatives of growers’ associations and unions, over the past few months.
“We note with concern that where RTGS loans were given to growers by contractors these are now being treated as USD currency loans in growers’ loan accounts at a rate of 1:1. This is an unfair practice. We believe this will result in many growers not benefiting much, which will have a negative impact on their viability. We believe that RTGS loans should be settled with RTGS currency,” he said.
TIMB has licensed 30 contractors and 31 buyers for the 2018-19 marketing season advance.
So far TIMB has registered 171 743 farmers for this marketing season, an increase of 40 percent from the 122 520 who registered during the same period last year.
There are 42 083 new growers so far, an increase of 24 percent from the 34 025 registered during the 2017-2018 corresponding period.