STANBIC Bank has opened three additional branches in Harare and Karoi to give tobacco stakeholders real time value and banking solutions during the ongoing selling season, which opened mid last month.

The three additional branches bring the number of similar facilities to 15 the financial services institution has set up over the past three years as it seeks to offer banking convenience to tobacco sector players.

The Standard Bank Group subsidiary plays a significant role in the tobacco sector in Zimbabwe by providing crucial financial services and support to various stakeholders involved in the production, processing and marketing of tobacco.

Stanbic head of personal and private banking, Nelson Muhau said the institution was committed to delivering value to tobacco farmers, transporters and value chain players in alignment with its vision of delivering exceptional client experiences and superior value.

Muhau said the setting up of three more implants was one way of living up to that commitment as it brings banking facilities closer to the regions of production. 

“By actively engaging with value chain players and offering tailored financial products and services to the farmers in Zimbabwe, Stanbic Bank is playing a vital role in supporting the growth and sustainability of the agricultural sector and improving the livelihoods of farmers,” Muhau said in a statement.

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He stated that by actively engaging the customers and understanding their unique challenges through multiple touch points, the bank is playing a key role in the country’s development.

Stanbic Bank head of agriculture, Tawanda Maposah noted that the bank’s investment in Zimbabwe’s tobacco industry was unparalleled with the institution availing US$535 million to tobacco merchants and primary producers.

There are over 100 000 tobacco farmers growing tobacco, while more than 95% of production is through contract farming.

“We understand the importance of agriculture to the country's economy, and we are committed to supporting the sector in every sustainable way possible,” he said.

“Our crop financing and payment solutions are designed to meet the unique needs of farmers, and we have a team of experts who understand the sector and can provide tailored financial advice to our clients.”

Stanbic Bank also encourages merchants, through various interactions, to adopt sustainable agricultural practices to ensure environmental preservation in Africa’s largest tobacco producing nation.

The annual tobacco-selling season opened mid-March amid concerns by farmers of a sharp decline in harvests and quality induced by the drought and other weather elements such as El Niño.

Last year, farmers produced 296 million kilogrammes and production is estimated to fall to around 235 million kilogrammes this season owing to the El Niño-induced drought.