Elita Chikwati Agriculture Reporter
Farmers have collectively earned US$90,4 million from the sale of tobacco, as prices continue to firm.
Since the start of the 2021 tobacco selling season, farmers have sold 35,3 million kg worth US$90,4 million at an average price of US$2,56 per kilogramme.
During the same period last year, the average price was US$2,25 per kg.
So far, 475 338 bales of the crop have been sold compared to 264 885 during the same period last year.
The bulk of the crop, as has become the norm, has been sold through the contract floors.
Contracted growers have sold 32,6 million kg worth US$783,6 million while 2,6 million kg worth US$6,8 million were sold through auction sales.
Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) chief executive, Mr Meanwell Gudu yesterday said the selling season was progressing well with prices firming.
“The prices are firmer compared to last year,” he said. “The payments are being processed on time and farmers are accepting both RTGs and foreign currency at the banks.
“The quality of the leaf is better this season because of the high rainfall although the yields are slightly lower. The crop is lighter as compared to the previous season.”
Some farmers have also said they are happy with the prices, and the payment arrangement of 60 percent foreign currency and 40 percent local currency.
However, there is a feeling that some contractors are duping farmers as they are being charged high input prices, offered low prices and paid after a long period.
The farmers felt the TIMB was not playing its regulatory duty well as some companies that failed to pay farmers well last season are back on the market this year.
Chesa farmer, Mr Patrick Chinorwadza, said TIMB should closely monitor some contractors as they were acting in the same way as middlemen.
“We feel middlemen are still in the industry. Some companies are charging farmers exorbitantly for inputs but offer low prices, which is unfair,” he said.
Mt Darwin farmer, Mr Munyaradzi Mabuwana, said prices have been fair but complained of high bank charges which he said were eroding the profits.
“Prices are better than last year. So far, the situation is good but the high bank charges will affect us,” he said.
Tobacco Association of Zimbabwe president, Mr George Seremwe, yesterday said farmers were generally happy with the foreign currency retention and prices.
However, he said there were mixed feelings over payment modalities as some farmers were getting their money early while others take long.
“Farmers feel some companies are ripping them off. We are going to approach the TIMB, RBZ and the ministry for intervention,” he said
Zimbabwe Farmers Union director, Mr Paul Zakariya said the rejection percentage at the floors had increased from last year.
To date, the seasonal rejection rate is at 3,03 percent compared to 2,71 percent at the same time last season.
“This is an indication that we are having increased cases of poor handling and packing of the leaf by producers,” said Mr Zakariya. “It also may be an issue to do with the quality itself. We continue to closely monitor the performance of the sales.”