Friday, March 17, 2017

Zimbabwe Tobacco Farmers Stage Demonstration: Banks Fail to Meet $1000 Withdrawals 
Police called in to restore order

March 18, 2017
Zvamaida Murwira and Runyararo Muzavazi
Zimbabwe Herald

Tobacco farmers yesterday staged a demonstration at Tobacco Sales Floor (TSF) over the failure by banks to allow them to withdraw $1 000 as announced by a tripartite agreement among stakeholders.The farmers also complained over banks’ delays in processing their payments.

Police had to be called in to restore order after some farmers shut the entrance into the auction floor in protest over the decision by banks to restrict them to $300 withdrawals.

Early this week, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) and the Zimbabwe Tobacco Association (ZTA) announced in a tripartite statement that farmers would be able to withdraw $1 000 for their initial sale and $500 in subsequent sales.

Business at TSF was disrupted for more than an hour as the demonstration ensued, with farmers waving placards denouncing TIMB.

When The Herald visited TSF, gates were still closed as farmers sang and danced in scenes that could easily turn riotous.

Some of the placards were inscribed “TIMB yaita huwori, hatikweretese fodya” and “We need our money.” Initially, the police came wielding batons, but had to retreat to their camp, only to return in anti-riot gear after realising the situation was threatening to turn violent.

Business was eventually restored after banks, which have set up their branches at the auction floors, started allowing the farmers to withdraw $1 000.

TIMB spokesperson Mr Isheunesu Moyo said they had engaged the central bank, which assured them that funds would continue to be mobilised to avoid inconveniencing farmers.

“The RBZ assured us that they will put all necessary measures to ensure that farmers were paid without hassles and that funds would be mobilised to pay them,” said Mr Moyo.

When contacted, RBZ governor Dr John Mangudya said he was in a meeting and could not take calls.

His phone subsequently went unanswered and did not respond to messages sent on his mobile phone.

Zimbabwe Progressive Tobacco Farmers’ Association president Mr Mutandwa Mutasa implored the central bank to ensure that funds to pay farmers were available.

He said reneging on agreed figures for whatever reason had an adverse effect on farmers, most of whom would have travelled long distances to Harare.

“The central bank should reign in on banks so that farmers are paid promptly,” said Mr Mutasa. “Farmers have to return to their farms to continue attending to their produce. It does not help to keep them here for a long time.”

Mr David Masawu, a tobacco farmer, said the delay in cash withdrawals resulted in farmers spending more days at the auction floors, accumulating expenses as the cash withdrawals were being slowly processed.

This, he said, resulted in the money reflecting late in the farmer’s bank accounts.

“Cash delays are giving us headaches as we now have to spend endless nights waiting for the money to reflect in our bank accounts,” said Mr Mutasa. “It is not good for us the tobacco farmers, looking at the hard work invested for the tobacco to yield.”

The tobacco marketing season kicked off on Wednesday at TSF, Boka Tobacco Auction Floors and Premier Tobacco Auction Floor, amid high expectations on the back of good rains experienced this season.

The technical challenges in the use of electronic marketing that had characterised the floors did not affect business.

Day 1 tobacco sales rake in $423 000

March 17, 2017
Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter

At least $422 729 worth of tobacco weighing 191 891 kilogrammes was sold on the first day of the marketing season on Wednesday, according to figures released by the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board.

The average price for the three auction floors was $2,20 per kg, 45 percent higher than the $1,51 on the opening day of the 2016 marketing season.

TIMB licensed Tobacco Sales Floor, Boka Tobacco Auction Floors and Premier Tobacco Auction Floors to conduct the auctions.

The highest price was pegged at $4,80/kg, while rejected bales stood at 363 compared to 704 last year.

Some of the reasons for rejected bales included oversized, underweight, badly handled and mixed hands.

A total of 2 919 bales were laid, with 2 556 being sold.

The electronic marketing system was used in the morning at the floors, before it was shelved after stakeholders felt that the platform was slower than the manual system.

TIMB spokesperson Mr Isheunesu Moyo said they were fully committed to ensuring that the e-marketing system was operationalised across the marketing platform.

“We are committed to the full implementation of the e-marketing,” he said. “We are experiencing teething problems that we are working on.

“We do not want to inconvenience farmers, we will continue to use the machines, but if there are problems, we will revert to the manual system. Our consultants from India will be in the country soon to assist us in that regard.”

Farmers interviewed at the auction floors said they preferred the electronic marketing because of its inherent objective of promoting transpar- ency.

“Another good thing about the e-marketing is that the gadget does not bid downwards, but upwards unlike the manual system which could go either way,” said one farmer at TSF.

Tobacco on contract farming will be sold separately at auction floors like Chidziva Tobacco Processors and Northern Tobacco.

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