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Tobacco Farmers Group Confronts TIMB, Outline Demands Ahead Of Auctions

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By Staff Reporter


THE Tobacco Farmers Union of Zimbabwe (ToFUZ) has written to the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) demanding assurances farmers would be spared from perennial payment hurdles and other logistical inconveniences when sales on the golden leaf return later this year.

In a correspondence covering a broad range of issues affecting his constituency, ToFUZ Executive President Believe Tevera also urged TIMB to abandon its “ambush” methods when dealing with farmers.

“We request that TIMB should be clear on the payment method and not make last minute announcements which would ambush farmers,” he said.

“There should be clarity on the foreign currency retention threshold and it should be announced in time before the opening of the selling season.

“The retention ratio should be increased from the last year 50/50 which drastically affected farmers and tobacco production in Zimbabwe.”

Tevera said most farmers last season failed to recapitalise given that all inputs used in tobacco production were denominated US dollars, forcing them to shift into contract farming.

He added, “As a union, we therefore propose and demand that the forex retention ratio should be increased to 70% forex and 30% RTGS, and the RTGS part should be exchanged using the rate on the local market not the low rate on our foreign currency auction system.”

Tevera also called upon “TIMB to engage with monetary authorities and banks to ensure that cash is readily available in banks once it has been deposited at the conclusion of sales.”

In the past seasons, farmers have often waited for weeks for their cash to be available yet they would want to use it to settle payments and prepare for the next season.

“There is also need for TIMB and monetary authorities to engage banks which are able to avail cash on demand and not make farmers queue for long periods exposing them to the deadly COVID19 pandemic,” he said.

READ FULL CORRESPONDENCE BELOW;

Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB)

The Chief Executive Officer

Hope this email finds you well, the above matter refers to Tobacco Farmers Union of Zimbabwe (ToFUZ), a duly registered Association of small scale tobacco farmers, which is requesting for clarity on issues concerning the payment modalities for the upcoming 2021 marketing season as well as general issues of farmers welfare in the same period. Our issues are as follows:

  1. We request that TIMB should be clear on the payment method and not make last minute announcements which would ambush farmers. There should be clarity on the foreign currency retention threshold and it should be announced in time before the opening of the selling season. The retention ratio should be increased from the last year 50/50 which drastically affected farmers and tobacco production in Zimbabwe. Most farmers last season failed to recapitalize given that all inputs used in tobacco production are denominated USD, forcing most farmers to shift into contract farming . As a union we therefore propose and demand that the forex retention ratio should be increased to 70%forex and 30% RTGS , and the RTGS part should be exchanged using the rate on the local market not the low rate on our foreign currency auction system.
  2. We also call on TIMB to engage with monetary authorities and banks to ensure that cash is readily available in banks once it has been deposited at the conclusion of sales. Farmers have often waited for weeks for their cash to be available yet they would want to use it to settle payments and prepare for the next season. There is also need for TIMB and monetary authorities to engage banks which are able to avail cash on demand and not make farmers queue for long periods exposing them to the deadly COVID19 pandemic.
  3. We further request TIMB to allow farmers to access auction floors just like all other retailers such as big supermarkets which are allowing customers inside while observing social distancing, masking up and other preventive methods. Auction floors should, in the same vein, adhere to health regulations so that farmers can be present as their tobacco is being sold. Some bogus companies and middlemen are already moving in farms cutting corners under the pretext of providing presence in the auction floors for farmers which is prejudicing farmers their hard-earned money.
  4. Furthermore, TIMB needs to effectively monitor auction floors’ conduct. In the previous marketing season, many auction floors took advantage of the absence of farmers to collect their payments and deliberately delayed in making payments which disadvantaged farmers. TIMB needs to put in place a monitoring mechanism to ensure that farmers are paid promptly upon conclusion of sales so that they are not exposed to COVID19 through unnecessarily long stays at auction floors. Farmers also fell prey to unscrupulous conduct at auction floors due to their absence where some bales were condemned because they were allegedly wet or mixed hands which was infact not the case but an unscrupulous way for rehandling companies to fleece farmers.

We look forward to your cooperation and action on the matters we have raised.