Home » Industry » Zanu-PF Bemoans Low Tobacco Prices

ZANU-PF national Youth League has called for urgent investment in beneficiation of tobacco to save the industry from collapsing. The members, who met the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board executive and toured auction floors yesterday, raised concern over the low prices prevailing this season.

They complained over a price ceiling of $4,99 per kilogramme at the auction floors when prices at the contract floors were going as high as $6,25 per kg.

ZANU-PF Youth League secretary Cde Pupurayi Togarepi complained that buyers were exploiting farmers by offering low prices that were not viable.

“We are not happy because prices are depressed. Here and there the quality is poor but the bulk of the crop is good.

“There should not be a price ceiling under the auction system. The crop should be bought according to the quality regardless of the floors,” he said.

Cde Togarepi said the TIMB was not doing enough to protect farmers from unscrupulous buyers.

“Why are prices going as low as six cents (per kg)? If the quality is so bad, why are buyers taking the crop? TIMB should protect the farmers from buyers and ensure the prices are not discriminatory. We feel farmers are being swindled and it is not fair. Why do we continue to have issues of low prices every season?” he said.

He called for the beneficiation of the crop to add value and increase profits.

“The problem is we are selling our raw tobacco to international buyers. We should add value to raw materials including tobacco. We should have small processing plants in the provinces where we make cigarettes and sell finished products

“If it is possible, Government should suspend tobacco sales and have a stakeholder meeting on what can be done to improve the situation. TIMB is hamstrung and does not have the power. They are just at the mercy of buyers,” he said.

“TIMB chief executive Dr Andrew Matibiri said buyers prefer tobacco from the contract floors which they say is traceable and grown according to the market requirements,” he said.

“We do not put prices on the crop. Prices being offered in Zimbabwe are the second highest in the world after India. In India, the average price is $1 per kg and the farmers produce on small plots. It is only in Zimbabwe where farmers produce large hectares of the crop,” he said.

Dr Matibiri said there was need for Zimbabwe to have local buyers saying the requirement that a buyer should source funds offshore was affecting most local people who were interested in buying tobacco.

“Local entrepreneurs do not have money to buy tobacco. The factories and processing companies belong to foreigners and there should be funding so that local people can also participate in the tobacco market,” he said.

Tobacco grown locally was mostly for the export market since the country had a few smokers compared to other nations.

“The smoking population is small to play a significant part in terms of holding the industry. We need to add value to our tobacco and export it. Countries like Brazil have a population of 250 million and have a huge local market for their crop. India produces 800 million kg of tobacco but the bulk of the crop is internally consumed,” he said.

Source : The Herald