TIMB plays down tobacco cash hiccups

HARARE - Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (Timb) says the current cash shortages being experienced by farmers will be addressed as the season progresses.

This comes as tobacco farmers were this year ordered to open bank accounts where their proceeds would be deposited.

However, the process has not been smooth sailing as farmers — who are used to getting cash on the spot — are failing to access their money from banks.

There was chaos last week at the tobacco auction floors, during the first two days of the 2016 marketing season, when some tobacco companies failed to deposit farmers’ payments into banks.

However, Timb spokesperson Isheunesu Moyo said these are some of teething problems the market experienced when the new system was rolled out.

“Expectation is that farmers who are compliant should be paid same day. Having a bank account empowers the farmers as they will have a track record and can build trust and confidence with the bankers,” he said, adding that farmers need to be educated to take farming as a business.

“We will continue to educate farmers on the benefits of using bank accounts.  In the future, farmers can access bank loans,” Moyo said.

This year’s tobacco marketing season started brilliantly with a kilogramme of the golden leaf being auctioned at $4,50, which was higher than last year’s selling season which opened at $2,50 per kg.

In an interview with the Daily News yesterday, Sinikiwe Kamupeni, a farmer from Guruve expressed disappointment over the delays in getting her payment after delivering her crop tobacco on Thursday.

“The process is very slow and up today (Monday) there is nothing in my account. It is now more expensive for me because I have to go into town to check for my money and I am now destitute,” she said.

Kamupeni, 43, added that the old system was much better and government was supposed to have consulted farmers way back.

“If the new system was going to take this long, I think they were supposed to tell us before we came here for us to be prepared. Now we feel like the government and Timb have crooked us because there is no money in the country yet we are starving here,” she said.

The new system was introduced by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) and Timb that farmers can now only receive payments for tobacco sold at auction floors through banks.

Farmers who sold tobacco at auction floors were told to open bank accounts so that they could get money instantly and this led many farmers to open accounts with banks which are not found in their areas.

Another farmer from Hurungwe, Paridzai Ndira, said this new system was bad as it leaves farmers with more questions than answers.

“A lot of farmers are not that educated and to understand advantages of this system might be difficult for us. Most of us prefer the old system which was convenient.

“Why do Zimbabweans have to struggle for everything, it was difficult the whole season and I am now stressed because there is no money. This is not fair,” he said.

Ndira added that the government must do something quickly because living conditions at tobacco floors are not up to standard.

“We are few here but they are failing to pay us. There is no food given to us and we do not have clothes to change,” he said.

The Timb has projected a decline in crop size due to the effects of the El Niño-induced weather conditions.

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