ONLY a week after the government literally stabbed our tobacco farmers in the back by deciding to brazenly breach an earlier pledge to pay them half in foreign currency and the other half in local currency for their golden leaf, the farmers have been slammed in the face by yet another brick.
The auction floors have decided to almost double handling and weighing charges for the farmers’ tobacco from ZWR$4,50 to ZWR$7,70 per bale. This will undoubtedly erode the little that the poor farmers will reap from their sweat.
This has prompted us to ask: Is government still interested in tobacco farming because it is now wont on frustrating our farmers? Is there a hidden ploy to drive as many as possible of the tobacco farmers out of this very lucrative trade?
Tobacco farming had become, albeit the major challenge of forest degradation, a major livelihood for many people, especially those who benefited from government’s 2000 land reform programme. It is now disheartening, to say the least, to see our hard-working tobacco farmers being treated in this manner.
We shudder to imagine how other farmers will be treated when they bring their produce to the market. We have maize producers who will soon be coming in with the little they harvested following a very poor rainfall season. What token of appreciation will they get for their sterling efforts under very difficult and trying conditions?
Soon after them will come wheat producers, who have, in the past, been treated roughshod despite the fact that producing the crop is one of the most taxing farming engagements in the country given the perennial electricity outages.
We believe the prosperity of our country remains in agriculture and so we call upon our government to enact policies that protect and encourage our farmers to produce more for local consumption and export.
Every year, we have been begging for food assistance due to the unpredictable vagaries of the elements, but government could do more by not helping in further frustrating our farmers.