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Why are tobacco farmers struggling?


REPORTS of tobacco farmers struggling to access their monies after delivering their crop at the auction floors have resurfaced.

It is a continuing struggle for tobacco farmers who generate hundreds of millions of United States dollars yearly.

Unfortunately, very little attention has been given to address their plight, and this poses serious problems for them and their families.

After toiling for months to produce the crop, they have always confronted many hurdles when they get to the market.

It is either the money is not available, hence they have to wait for weeks on end, or they are offered low prices for their crop, which means they continue to wallow in poverty despite making a huge contribution to the economy.

Contracting firms, which now dominate the tobacco market by funding over 95% of the crop, are acting like fraudsters. At the beginning of the current selling season, farmers could not access their money at the banks because these firms had not funded their accounts.

Yet they knew all along that the marketing season would start and farmers would need to be paid. This is unacceptable.

The end result is that farmers are forced to camp outside the markets in the open, and under harsh, unforgiving weather conditions until they are paid.

Another tragic thing is that the moment the tobacco marketing season starts, bank queues resurface, making it impossible for them to access their monies.

Assuming that this is not deliberate, why are banks taking long to address this decade-old problem? Government must get to the bottom of this and take action before this important sector is used to exploit tobacco farmers, the mainstay of our agro-based economy.

The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe should intervene and investigate farmers’ complaints and enlighten them on what is happening and what steps are being taken to address the problems.

Sadly, it looks like no one is ready to address the recurrent challenges.

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