The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Agriculture has recommended the opening of more tobacco auction floors to improve efficiency and safeguard farmers’ interests.
The committee, chaired by Chikomba Central MP, Moses Jiri, produced a report after investigating the operations of the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) to establish their challenges in dealing with tobacco farmers.
The report said there was panic among farmers as they feared that tobacco prices would go down and this created congestion at tobacco sales floors.
“The chief reason for congestion at the auction floors was being fuelled by fears of the tobacco prices weakening as the season progresses and these fears are driving farmers to rush to the floors and get higher prices before a predicted price nosedive,” read the report by the committee.
“The TIMB must expand the existing tobacco auctioning infrastructure to cater for the ever-expanding numbers of farmers by inviting more players in tobacco auctioning,” the parliamentary committee recommended.
The committee’s investigations also noted that hordes of traders besieged the auction floors, causing confusion and aiding criminal acts in addition to health risks.
“Not only is the auction floor a great health threat, but the security of the farmers is also gravely compromised by the heavy presence of vendors and hawkers most of whom are of sinister motives,” read the report.
The committee recommended that the TIMB build more ablution facilities and food courts and work in partnership with the police to get rid of illegal vendors overcrowding the auction floors.