Floors jostle for tobacco farmers

Competition is likely to be stiff among the four tobacco auction floors as evidenced by the level of preparedness and investment being put in ahead of the 2012 marketing season, an official said on Friday.

Officials from the Tobacco Marketing Board (TIMB) toured the floors last week to check on their preparedness.

The floors are scheduled to open on February 15.
TIMB chairperson Monica Chinamasa said: Some are going to the extent of sending trucks to farmers while others are giving fertilizers and chemicals to farmers to create a platform were growers can bring more tobacco.

Boka Tobacco auction floors chief executive officer Rudo Boka said the company had invested $2 million towards a refurbishment exercise to prepare for the marketing season.

We would like the place to be safe and convenient like a one-stop-shop, said Boka. We have set up a hardware shop, a canteen, toilets, bathing rooms, accommodation, waiting areas, a clinic and security.
She said there would be nine banks at the floors for easy access to funds by farmers.

Its important for growers to have easy access to money. The banks have assured us they have enough cash.

We are also trying to encourage a culture for growers to use banks rather than to move around with large amounts of cash. said Rudo.

Premier Tobacco Auction Floors managing director, Philemon Mangena said they were ready for this years marketing season.

He expressed hope everything will be in place by the end of this month. The company has poured in $1,2 million in refurbishments.

We have three banks. There is also, security, a canteen, a clinic, toilets, bath rooms and accommodation for growers, said Mangena.

Tobacco Sales Floor chief executive officer, James Mutambanesango said the company had improved on a number of areas to reduce congestion at the floors.

We have managed to make more accommodation available apart from the tent we usually pitch in order to accommodate more growers, said Mutambanesango.

Millenium Toabacco chief executive officer, Richard Chabata said the company had splashed $2,5 million in refurbishment.

This season we have put up a clinic and a pharmacy apart from the other adequate amenities in terms of ablution facilities, security, canteen, accommodation, a waiting area and banking facilities, said Chabata.
He said the company acquired 10 trucks to provide growers with reliable transport.

We have noticed some of our farmers were being duped by truck drivers by charging exorbitant prices, said Chabata.

He said they were also giving farmers fertilizer and chemicals on credit. In recent seasons tobacco farmers had been left desperate for accommodation and spent days in the open just to sell their crop.

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