Tobacco floors chaos shocks Parly

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The chaos prevalent at the tobacco auction floors is a result of lack of facilities to provide ablution and catering facilities for more than 5 000 people daily, it has emerged.

The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Lands, Water and Rural Resources chaired by Chikomba Central MP Moses Jiri, which toured the floors recently, also established that the environment at the auction floors had become a breeding ground for bribery, especially involving policemen.

The committee also heard of sad incidents where unscrupulous transporters overcharged hapless farmers before dumping them in queues at the tobacco floors.

Jiri’s committee visited Tobacco Sales Floor to investigate causes of the chaos amid fears there was a likelihood of an outbreak of communicable diseases due to unhygienic conditions prevailing at the floors.

Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board chief executive officer Andrew Matibiri said the best way to deal with unscrupulous transporters was to ban unregistered ones.

Illegal vendors who had crowded the place should also be weeded out, he said.

“Three years ago we had three auction floors, the Tobacco Sales Floor, Burley Marketing Zimbabwe and Zitac, but we ended up with only two auction floors,” said Matibiri.

“Six weeks later, we ran into problems of congestion and now the system cannot cope with the tobacco being delivered.”

According to Tobacco Sales Floor managing director James Mutambanesango, the auction floors serviced 8 000 bales daily offloaded from 250 to 300 lorries.

Payments to farmers were quick because six banks were operational at the floors.

However, farmers outside the complex complained that there was chaos at the tobacco auction floors, resulting in them spending up to nine days camped at the floors, due to the confusion allegedly caused by law enforcement agents, whom the farmers accused of receiving bribes to give preference to queue jumpers.

Mutambanesango said the confusion had been created by the fact that farmers did not follow procedure.

“To avoid the situation deteriorating we are not allowing tobacco from people who have no grower numbers, who have not made bookings, and those who do not know their estimates because those people are not tobacco growers,” said Mutambanesango.

“We have adequate ablution facilities and food outlets for farmers within these premises and will be commissioning ablution blocks for those outside the premises.

“However, three-quarters of our problems emanate from transporters and 90% of them are not even registered with TIMB (Tobacco Industry Marketing Board),” he said.

He said in case of disease outbreak, the possible source could be unauthorised vendors who had thronged the area.