Tobacco farmers are threatening to boycott paying the afforestation levy, saying they did not benefit from the fund, three years after it was introduced.
BY FIDELITY MHLANGA
Farmers are incurring double costs in the form of the 0,75% afforestation levy, and the buying of woodlots or coal to cure tobacco every season.
Federation of Farmers Union chairman, Charles Chabikwa said farmers were not motivated to pay the levy.
“I will start by saying in 2015, the idea sounded very genuine, as it was coming from background that there was a great concern on deforestation due to curing of tobacco. Someone came up with the plan to put on woodlots for farmers. We had to put up a committee. Up to now the funds have not yet been released to establish the intended woodlots,” he said.
“As farmers, we are annoyed and disappointed and we don’t feel motivated to give that levy.”
Chabikwa said the money deducted should be returned, as they were “finding it very difficult to explain this to our farmers”.
The boycott threat comes ahead of the opening of the 2018 marketing season, which is likely to start next month.
Zimbabwe Tobacco Association chief executive, Rodney Ambrose said the levy “adds 10% onto the curing fuel cost, having a negative impact on farmers’ viability”.
“The levy has been in effect for three years, with close to $20 million collected from farmers and not a single tree seedling has been planted or sustainable tobacco curing projects embarked on. It is our view that the levy should be removed effective this 2018 season and the funds accumulated to date first accounted for and utilised by farmer stakeholders,” Ambrose said.
In January 2015, the government introduced an afforestation levy on all tobacco farmers at a rate of 1,5% in the first year and 0,75% in subsequent years.
Tobacco Industry Marketing board (TIMB) said of the $19 million collected since 2015, $4 million is in the board’s account, as they finalise administrative processes.
“Until now, the money is ring fenced for reforestation programmes in tobacco growing areas as TIMB awaits administrative processes and approval from the Parliament of Zimbabwe,” Isheunesu Moyo, TIMB public relations manager said.