Tobacco farmers in spat over shared costs

 

Edgar Vhera

Agriculture Specialist Writer

A REGISTERED tobacco grower’s goodwill gesture of allowing two relatives to sell their tobacco using his grower’s number has backfired after they failed to agree on a mode of sharing the marketing costs.

The trio’s impasse revolves around the division of deducted marketing expenses inspired by the challenging question about fair sharing and accountability for the expenses incurred under the arrangement.

Relating his ordeal in a tobacco farmers’ WhatsApp group, Tobacco Farmer Talk (TFT), the farmer who could not reveal his grower’s number for fear of getting penalised for the offence of allowing unregistered people to use his number, said he sold his tobacco together with his two relatives’ under one voucher.

“I sold my bales and my relatives’ under one sale and voucher. We are now disagreeing on how to share the costs among the three of us. One of us believes floor charges are levied equally per every bale irrespective of mass, while the other thinks charges are volume based. I think they are pegged according to gross weight,” he said.

One group member opinioned that the charges were value, volume and bale-based.

“Afforestation levy and floor commission are value-based, while service charges are volume-based with weighing and handling costs being bale-based,” he said.

Meanwhile, Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) public relations officer Mrs Chelesani Tsarwe said it was illegal for a farmer to grow tobacco without being registered.

Sub-section 25 of the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Levy Act (Chapter 18:20) stipulates that ‘any person who is not registered and who, by himself/ herself or through his agents, grows tobacco shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level five or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or both such fine and such imprisonment.’

Mrs Tsarwe said registration provided statistical information about the total number of growers and possible crop size.

“This information is important for planning purposes especially on the number of auction floors, number of buyers, mobilising financial resources to buy the crop and pricing of the tobacco. Grower registration is easy and our promise to stakeholders is that when one applies for a grower’s number and all the requirements are met, the grower number should be issued in two weeks,” she said.

The following requirements should accompany an application to TIMB for registration as a grower: proof of access to land in the form of title deeds, land permit/offer letter for A1 and A2 while for those living in communal areas and a stamped recommendation letter from the grower’s local councilor or headman/chief. There is also need for a stamped recommendation letter from the grower’s local Agritex officer to confirm that the person is a bonafide tobacco grower.  A copy of national identification card as well as a registration fee of US$10 payable on submission of application form before October 31 of the year preceding the marketing season.

Mrs Tsarwe said late registration attracted a penalty and urged farmers to register at their various offices located country-wide.

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