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Tobacco growers have resorted to side marketing their crop to the contract floors to get higher prices as buyers continue to offer low prices at the auction floors.

Contractors only buy tobacco from growers they would have supplied with inputs, but some farmers are using contracted growers’ numbers to sell their crop to the contract floors.

Most of the growers are aware that the practice is illegal, but said they had no choice since buyers were offering unattractive prices at the auction floors.

Karoi farmer Ms Neddy Mpupuri said she had sold part of her crop through the auction floors and was disheartened by the prices.

“Tobacco production is my mainstay,” she said.

“I have to go back to the fields and with the prices being offered at auction floors, I will never be able to finance my crop. I am selling the remaining tobacco through the contract floors.”

Other farmers said they were considering growing the crop under contract to maximise profits next season.

“We are now being forced into contract farming,” said another farmer.

“There should not be any differences in the prices being offered since buyers consider the quality of the crop. A good grade should fetch the same price regardless of the floor price.”

There has also been an increase in the crop being delivered to the contract floors, while queues are declining at the auction floors. The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board’s latest statistics show that on the 59th day of the sales, 30 000 bales worth $7,3 million were sold at the contract floors, compared to 7 200 bales worth $1,1 million sold at the three auction floors.

The statistics show that the average price at the contract floors is $3,13 per kilogramme, while the highest price at the contract floors is $6,15 per kg.

The average price at the auction floors is $2,59 per kg, while for the past four years the highest price of tobacco has remained at $4,99 per kg at the auction floors. Tobacco production has been on the increase as farmers shifted from cotton and maize which were not lucrative.

The number of tobacco growers has continued to increase with over 103 000 farmers registered this season.

Source : The Herald

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