By Runyararo Muzavazi
The increase in the number of tobacco auction floors has triggered cut-throat competition among the players in the sector, a situation that farmers say has brought great improvement in service delivery and the marketing of their crop.
Zimbabwe has a total of three licensed auction floors and 19 contract buyers, allowing farmers a wide range of choice.
Tobacco farmers commended the decision by the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) to open the door to more players in the sector and the advent of e-marketing, saying business and marketing environment had vastly improved.
“Service delivery has greatly improved and all this can be attributed to competition among auction floors, thanks to the TIMB for the electronic marketing system and licensing more players in the sector,” said Mr Clever Mutaikwa, a farmer based in Marondera.
A workshop to educate farmers on how the e-marketing system works began on Monday and the farmers expressed their gratitude towards TIMB for taking the initiative to familiarise them with the new technology before the marketing season begins.
TIMB communications manager Mr Isheunesu Moyo said e-marketing of tobacco will go far in reducing side-marketing, illegal sales and theft. The electronic auctioning of tobacco would also reduce the processing time for growers’ payments and eliminate illegal floor activities, for example ticket tampering.
“The system will also ensure transparency in the buying process and eliminates the possibility of interference among buyers,” he said.
Another advantage of e-marketing is that tobacco buyers will receive real-time data as the auction process happens and will therefore be able to tally bales when they reach the dispatch section of the sales floor.
The TIMB, whose mandate is to promote orderly marketing of tobacco, will also be able to monitor the sale process and this on its own will make the whole process more transparent.
Auction floor operators confirmed that competition had led them to adopt measures that attract clients thereby improving service delivery.
The TIMB increased the number of auction floors from three to four this season, a development that has been hailed for reducing congestion at auction floors and improving conditions of service.
Farmers have urged tobacco auction floors and contract buyers to come up with a fair price which will ensure the smooth opening of the 2017 tobacco marketing season set for the middle of this month.