Tobacco farmers struggle to access cash

HARARE - Zimbabwe's biting cash crunch has seen tobacco farmers spending days at the country’s tobacco auction floors waiting to withdraw money from banks.

Farmers who spoke to the Daily News yesterday said the new system introduced by the government had brought more problems to them than solutions.

“I sold tobacco on April 4, but until now there is nothing at the bank and now I am spending more money than I expected. The bank teller told me that there is no money in my account and it is now stressing me because I don’t understand where the problem is,” Concession farmer Marshall Nyakurima said.

He said while opening a bank account had benefits such as accessing loans, they are being frustrated with delays in accessing their money.

“The process is very long, I feel like I have been robbed and now they are checking in their computers but they haven’t given me a tangible answer yet,” he said.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe  and Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board introduced a new system whereby farmers were 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 that do not have cash.

Magunje farmer Ruth Marisa said most as farmers they would prefer the old system which allowed them to receive cash within a few hours after delivery.

“I opened an account with Banc ABC and they told me to transfer money to EcoCash for me to get cash.

“This system is complicated and costly to us,” she bemoaned.

However, Boka Tobacco Auction Floors operations director Moses Bias said despite the ongoing cash crisis farmers were failing to understand the new system.

“The process takes about three to 24 hours on a normal basis. Delays are caused by late opening of bank accounts by farmers and a lot of them open accounts while they are at queues of selling or after they have sold their tobacco,” said Bias.

“Our duty is to transfer money to banks and after that we are done with farmers, therefore the delays at banks are not for us to comment on. It’s a new system and farmers are panicking but a lot of farmers are getting their money the same day they have sold their tobacco,” he said.

Zimbabwe is expecting to produce 180 million kilogrammes of tobacco this year down from 198 million registered last year due to a devastating drought that has left close to 4,5 million people in need of food aid.

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