Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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Pirate tobacco farmers congest auction floors

Pirate tobacco farmers congest auction floors

Sunday, 01 May 2011 15:50


THE influx of unregistered tobacco farmers has been blamed for the 
congestion at the auction floors.
James Mutambanesango, the Tobacco Sales Floor (TSF) managing director said 
the auction system had changed substantially over the years as more 
small-scale farmers have ventured into tobacco farming.

He said in the past, the tobacco season usually commenced in April while the 
floors dealt with individual farmers who had large commercial plots as 
opposed to hundreds of small-scale farmers.

“There is an outcry because we are simply enforcing legislation.

“We are cracking the whip for the sake of those farmers who are legitimately 
booked into the system,” Mutambanesango said.

He said TSF would not accept tobacco from farmers who were not booked into 
the system until all procedures had been followed.

Mutambanesango said bookings would continue until Thursday.

A number of farmers eager to sell their crop could be seen queuing outside 
the floors.

Some said they had spent several nights outside the floors despite being 
advised to follow registration procedures.

Mutambanesango said the farmers had to provide information on the size of 
the land where tobacco was produced and the estimated crop size to enable 
buyers to raise appropriate amounts of money from their offshore accounts.

“The floors are designed to accommodate a certain volume of crop on any 
day,” he said.

“Right now we are conducting five sales per day translating into roughly 2 
500 bales going under the hammer.”

He said space at the floors was limited.

This, he said, could see the selling season stretching into August if the 
number of auction floors did not increase.

Mutambanesango said Timb, as the regulator, should bring together all 
relevant stakeholders in the tobacco industry in order to address the 
challenges in future.

Compounding problems at the auction floors is the fact that merchants are 
rejecting some of the tobacco, as it may be mouldy or mixed.

Figures from Timb show that on Wednesday the country’s three operating 
tobacco auction floors—TSF, Boka and Millennium rejected 1 535 bales, 
bringing to 39 844 the number of bales that failed to meet the mark since 
the marketing season commenced in mid-February.

Mutambanesango said many farmers are inexperienced in terms of grading and 
packaging their tobacco and urged government to provide more training and 
extension services for this agricultural sector.

“Timb-licensed re-handlers deal with rejected tobacco,” he said.

“The re-handler may fail to bring back the tobacco on time or may overcharge 
for service rendered but all this has nothing to do with the floors.”
Vendors selling wares and foodstuffs just outside the TSF premises have 
added to the confusion at the floors as they are in constant running battles 
with the municipal police.

However, Boka Floors CEO, Matthew Boka said the floors were coping very well 
with the farmers and expressed optimism that the selling season will 
gradually improve as more farmers are attended to.


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