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US$15 for five bales of tobacco, a smallholder tobacco farmer's tale

by Erick Matotoba
27 Mar 2024 at 08:49hrs | Views
Smallholder tobacco farmers are reeling under the yoke of high-interest loans, amid shocking revelations one of the farmers received a pay-out of US$15 after selling five bales of tobacco at the contract floors.

Searching for answers where none can be found, a smallholder tobacco farmer anxiously investigates his barn, hoping for a miracle to speed up the curing process.

His life depends on the sale of the cured tobacco, after being dealt a devastating blow on the last attempt when he received only US$15 from five bales of the golden leaf.

"I only managed to get enough to return home. Everything else was deducted to offset a loan that I got to grow the crop," said a farmer, Robson Manyika.

Even now his dilemma is far from over, he still has an outstanding balance of US$500, which he needs to offset.

The next sale may just as well bring the same results.

"We are desperate, it's hope against hope, but the situation is bad. There is nothing we can do but hope for the best on the next sale," said his mother, Mrs Manyika.

Theirs is a story affecting hundreds of farmers under contract tobacco farming across the country.

From high-end loans to non-payment of recorded sales, the farmers continue to wallow.

Another farmer, Mr Garikai Nyandoro said, "It is bad for farmers, if you look at what is happening now, a pair of gum boots that you pay cash around US$10, they are priced double when you get them under contract farming. It is the same with fertilisers, you get them at around US$90 a bag."

Yet the information is not made available to the farmer when they sign contract forms.

"I am not aware of the prices. They just made me sign the contract and I do not know whether this is my actual contract or not," Robson said.

Tobacco industry leaders agree contract farming is burdening the sector with allegations some contractors are working in cahoots with buyers.

Zimbabwe Tobacco Growers Association president, Mr George Seremwe said, "There is an investigation going on the connivance of buyers to under-price tobacco. The auction floor price is not exceeding US$4.99, it's a clear sign that they are discussing beforehand, and they have an agreement. Purposely they are conniving and under-pricing the crop."

Similar issues characterised the marketing season last year, after 300 farmers picketed against Voedsel Tobacco.

At the last cabinet meeting, the government directed the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board to investigate unfair practices prejudicing farmers.

Source - Erick Matotoba