FARMERS’ unions are lobbying for the crafting of a legal framework that will deter and punish firms that run tobacco marketing floors from delaying payments for produce delivered.
BY FIDELITY MHLANGA
This came after Goldern Barn, a tobacco contracting firm, is in the eye of a storm after failing to pay farmers who delivered their crop to the company a month ago.
In June, farmers protested in Mvurwi against another contracting firm, Voedsel Contract Tobacco Floor over payment delays.
Farmers’ unions now feel the recurrence of these aberrant activities could jeopardise the reputation of the billion dollar industry and force growers to quit the trade.
Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) executive director Paul Zakariya said farmers expect prompt payments as soon as they delivered their tobacco.
“That is a very unfortunate situation. Farmers expect prompt payments as soon as they deliver their tobacco. This has nothing to do with whether they deliver to a contractor or to the auction sales floors. In this case, farmers are suffering loss of value on many fronts. Due to inflation, the amounts due are now worth far less than they were at the time of tobacco delivery,” Zakariya said.
“What is needed is a legal framework to be developed where obligations are spelt out and consequences for defaults are made clear and enforceable by law. We also encourage farmers to be members of the ZFU Tobacco Producers Association so that our legal teams can provide them with legal services when things get to this.”
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Zimbabwe Commercial Farmer Union president Shadreck Makombe said the contractor should be reported to the police and forced to pay because he wa s a cheat.
“He (Tobacco Contract floor owner) should be forced to pay. If not, he must be reported to the police because he is a cheat,” Makombe said.
The Apex Council Board for Youth in Agriculture chairperson John Muchenje pleaded with authorities to ensure that any exchange loss incurred due to payment delays is compensated.
“As the chairperson of the Apex Council Board for Youth in Agriculture, I condemn such actions from companies and organisations that purchases produce from farmers and do not pay on time.
Farming is a business and time value of money is critical. The prices of inputs are increasing as the interbank rate increases, the farmers will be heavily affected by these payments delays.
Farmers should be paid as per agreed times after delivery and if there is any delay it must be compensated with the exchange loss,” Muchenje said.