Tobacco growers are crying foul over some unscrupulous contractors who are taking long to remit payments after a sale, thereby eroding farmers’ profits and negatively affecting preparedness for the forthcoming season.
Farmers have been complaining that some contractors buy their crop and delay payments, resulting in the growers incurring losses.
They appealed to the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) to intervene as some of the companies were taking more than seven days to process payments.
The farmers said since the foreign currency rate was no longer fixed, it was unfair for companies to delay payments and to use old rates when they eventually paid.
Tobacco Association of Zimbabwe president, Mr George Seremwe, said they had received reports from numerous farmers and had registered their concerns with the TIMB.
“It appears some contractors do not have enough funds to buy tobacco. We have numerous reports from farmers complaining over such conduct by some contractors. Some of the contractors are new while others have been in the industry for more than two years.
“We have approached TIMB on the issue. The board should consider funding when issuing out licences to contractors because some companies will end up ripping off farmers. We had the same problem last year and this year it is resurfacing,” he said.
Zimbabwe National Farmers Union vice president, Mr Edward Dune, confirmed that some companies were cheating farmers and this would negatively impact on the 2021 tobacco season.
“We have received reports of some unscrupulous contractors who are short-changing farmers. They delay payments and this erodes the farmers’ profits in this inflationary environment.
“We have approached the TIMB on such activities and we hope necessary measures will be taken to curb this practice,” he said.
TIMB chief executive, Dr Andrew Matibiri, said he had not received formal communication but heard of the practice.
He urged the affected farmers to approach the TIMB and register their concerns for assistance.
“It is unfair that the farmers are paid using the old rate. They should be paid using the rate of the day,” he said.
Meanwhile, tobacco farmers have sold 122 million kg of the crop worth US$291 million since the opening of the 2020 marketing season at the end of April.
This is a decline of five percent from the 129 million kg worth US$236 million sold by farmers during the same period last year.