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Tobacco producing companies cut jobs

Tobacco workers, who spoke to NewsDay, said all was not well ahead of the tobacco auction sales opening next month.

A NUMBER of tobacco farming companies have been forced to shed jobs due to a drop in yields as a result of the climate change-induced drought affecting southern Africa.

According to sources, contract workers are the worst affected, with some companies in Karoi, one of the top producers of the golden leaf, already cutting jobs.

Recently, one company in Karoi recruited only 54 contract workers compared to the 120 they used to take as seasonal workers annually.

Tobacco workers, who spoke to NewsDay, said all was not well ahead of the tobacco auction sales opening next month.

“Seasonal tobacco floor workers are in a fix. Annually, they are made to sign vague contracts which do not provide for social safety nets,” the source said.

“This season, the tobacco crop has been affected by the El Niño weather phenomenon. Another factor is that most farmers planted during the first rains and the crop suffered due to a long prolonged dry spell.”

Another source said the long dry spell had worsened the situation.

“Seasonal workers will lose out on incomes and for the few months, they do not enjoy other benefits like contributions for social security, among other benefits,” the source added.

Zimbabwe Tobacco Growers Association president George Seremwe confirmed the negative effects of drought in the sector.

“A quick survey, though not official, indicates that there are definitely low yields and the quality has been compromised and this means low labour intake by auction floors companies this season,” Seremwe said.

The National Employment Council for the tobacco industry revealed that over 11 500 seasonal workers are engaged at the peak of the season.

“Eighty percent of the employees are on seasonal contracts of employment. Twenty percent are on contracts of employment without limitation of time,” according to the official communication from the NEC tobacco sector.

Tobacco Industry Marketing Board spokesperson Chelesani Tsarwe recently said at least 113 101 hectares had been planted as at January 24, 2024 compared to 117 645 hectares last season.

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