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HARARE-- The Zimbabwe government plans to investigate the alleged exploitation of tobacco farmers by auction floors which are accused of paying unreasonably low prices for the crop, says Deputy Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement David Marapira.

He told delegates at the 2018 Tobacco Farmers Business Conference here Monday that measures to protect farmers from exploitation should be strengthened and the government was going to look into the issue. The government is also ready to assist stakeholders in agriculture by creating an enabling environment for them to operate in.

Risk of exploitation of tobacco farmers stretches from expensive inputs right across to unviable prices offered by our auction floors, he said. Farmers usually receive bad prices from our auction floors and as

government, we'll look into this, on a more serious note.

He urged tobacco farmers to not only concentrate on pricing but also on improving the quality of their crop so as to get the best out of the market as pricing was out of the control of the government since it did not purchase the crop.

Marapira also said the importance of agriculture to the economy should be appreciated as it accounted for 18 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Efforts to rebuild the Zimbabwean economy should start with the agriculture sector as it was important while the tobacco industry contributed significantly to generating foreign currency.

Marapira said Zimbabwe would soon receive 500 tractors from Belarus to enhance production in agriculture.