Home » Business » Low Tobacco Prices Irk Parly Committee

The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on lands and agriculture has expressed concern over low prices being offered by buyers at the tobacco auction floors this season and has urged stakeholders to educate farmers on what the market requires for them to get good returns for their crop. The members of the committee include legislators for Beitbridge East Cde Sipho Dube, Mazowe’s Cde Tsitsi Gezi, Murehwa East’s Cde Marbel Nkatazo, Harare Metropolitan’s Cde Josephine Chitembwe and Bindura South’s Cde Remigio Matangira.

They toured Northern Tobacco, Tianze Tobacco Company and Boka Tobacco Auction Floors where they expressed dismay at the price cap of $4,99 per kilogramme at the auction floors, while prices on contract floors were as high as $6,30 per kg.

Members felt that buyers were exploiting farmers by offering low prices, while others accused the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board of not doing enough to assist farmers especially on the issue of low prices.

Other legislators attributed the low prices to the low quality of the crop at the auction floors.

Cde Matangira accused the TIMB of not playing its part as the regulatory board.

“Prices at the auction floors are not getting any better since the opening of the selling season. TIMB should ensure there are more players to increase competition. I think buyers are paying a portion to TIMB,” he said.

He later clarified that he was referring to the money collected by the board for registration after TIMB chairperson, Mrs Monica Chinamasa, asked him to explain and give proof of money being paid to the board.

Zengeza West Member of Parliament, Cde Simon Chidhakwa, complained of middlemen buying the tobacco at very low prices outside the auction floor premises for resale at the floors.

Committee chairperson, Member of Parliament for Mt Darwin South, Cde Christopher Chitindi, said the committee had observed price disparities between the auction floors and contract floors.

“We were impressed at Tianze Tobacco Company where prices are high,” he said.

“The quality is good compared to the auction floors.

“There is need for farmers to be educated on the curing process, which matters most in determining the quality of the crop. The bulk of the crop that is fetching prices as low as 10 cents per kilogramme is of poor quality.”

Mrs Chinamasa said she was glad that the legislators had had the opportunity to visit the floors and have an understanding of the marketing process.

“Some people have been commenting on issues they are not well versed with and that will destroy the industry,” she said.

“Let us not destroy the industry like what happened to the cotton industry.

“The issue of yield and quality is very important to tobacco production.

“Farmers should make profit and they can only do so if they produce a crop that meets market requirements. It is important to tell farmers where they are failing and teach them to cure their crop and present it in a good way,” said Mrs Chinamasa.

“No buyer is willing to buy a low quality product. Some farmers produce good quality leaves but do not know how to properly cure their crop and this affects prices.”

Mrs Chinamasa said the TIMB had come up with a rocket barn that could assist farmers to cure their crop at a reduced cost.

Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister, Dr Joseph Made, said TIMB officials should assist farmers during the season especially on curing, grading and presentation of the crop to the market.

“We have new farmers every year who have mastered the skills of producing the crop but still lack technical expertise on curing, grading and presentation of the crop to the market. The TIMB should shift to grading and packaging of the crop,” he said.

Source : The Herald