Chaos at tobacco auction floors

HARARE - Farmers yesterday protested against “low” prices being offered by the Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (TIMB), leading to the subsequent suspension of sales at the Boka Tobacco Auction Floors (Boka).

The protests erupted just as the tobacco selling season kicked off yesterday.

Business came to a standstill as farmers accused the TIMB of ripping them off. They rejected the $3,50 per kg purchase price for the first bale. Last year, it was $4,85 per kg. The price offered this year represents a 28 percent slump in the price of the country’s biggest agricultural export.

“This is not what we expected, the rains have been bad; and under normal circumstances the price should have been fair,” Monica Zvevhu, a tobacco farmer told the Daily News.

“The same quality leaf I had last year fetched $3,10 this year, but $4,99 last year.”

Rudo Boka, the Boka chief executive, said the farmers were free to vacate the floors if they were not interested in selling.

“I am very distressed and this is ridiculous,” she said. “I have people dancing on my floors but the tobacco laws protect these farmers. If they are not happy, they should pack and leave,” she charged.

She told the farmers the transactions were conducted on a “willing buyer, willing seller basis, so no one is being taken advantage of.”

Last year, 205,5 million kgs of tobacco were sold, earning $651,9 million, the biggest sale in 13 years.

In 2014, more than 105 000 farmers took up tobacco production. The majority of the farmers are under contract farming. This has seen many foreign companies enter into farming deals with local growers who cannot afford inputs and other costs.

The traditional February start of the sales season was delayed after crops were damaged by heavy rains followed by dry periods, which prompted TIMB to predict a smaller harvest.

In the early 2000s, Zimbabwe was the second-largest exporter of flue-cured tobacco — a high-quality, lucrative crop — but the sector’s fortunes reversed suddenly with the controversial land reform programme. The upheaval devastated the country’s agricultural sector.

However, steady gains by black Zimbabwean tobacco farmers have raised production of the crop closer to pre-reform levels and may help salvage the country’s struggling export sector.

Comments (4)

Boka came into the fold with a price scheming strategy to rip off farmers and TBA subsequently lost business. Now Boka is a monopoly buyer and that is what Boka wanted to be driving out competition.

Ed - 6 March 2015

better free all buyers and remove the monopoly

geo munaty - 7 March 2015

we want empowerment through farming as per zimasset

geo munaty - 7 March 2015

Ngavatore fodya vanodya nevena vavo kudzimba kwavo kana vasingadi kutengesa. Willing buyer willing seller chete. Abayiwa ngaabude. Majaira kuita zvamunoda.

Chipoto vhavhai - 9 March 2015

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