‘The hunger is just beginning’

| April 26, 2016

Flue-cured tobacco growers in Zimbabwe are unhappy because of what they see as the poor prices being paid at auction for good-quality leaf and have sought a meeting with the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board to discuss the issue, according to a story in The Herald.

But they are perhaps the lucky ones. According to a story by Jeffrey Moyo for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, weather conditions during the 2015-16 growing season have meant that some farmers have been left destitute. ‘For many of the country’s tobacco farmers, the hunger is just beginning,’ Moyo said.

And while the farmers suffer; so too do their laborers. Moyo starts his piece in the makeshift office of a farmer trying to explain to angry workers that he has no money to pay them.

Meanwhile, The Herald quoted the Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union (ZFU) executive director Paul Zakaria as saying farmers had sought a meeting with the TIMB and buyers, but that no meeting had been scheduled yet.

Mr Zakaria said it was astonishing that tobacco prices this season had so far averaged $2.50 to $2.60 per kg despite the fact that the crop was of the highest quality seen in recent years.

“The price of tobacco is one huge disappointment and farmers have scheduled meetings so that we can sort out the issue,” he said. “We need to have meetings with TIMB and buyers, but we are yet to get the nod in terms of the buyers.”

Zakaria alleged that there was a strong suspicion that buyers could be colluding on prices and that there was a need to investigate the matter, because it threatened the future of tobacco production in Zimbabwe.

The view from the TIMB was different however. Spokesman Isheunesu Moyo said he was unaware of the farmers’ request to meet both the marketing board and buyers.

Isheunesu Moyo said that deliveries and prices were in fact better than last year at this point of the tobacco marketing season. “I am actually surprised because the prices are better than last year, he said. “The prices are also dependent on the quality of the tobacco. I would not know what those farmers are talking about.

“The farmers have not approached us. I do not think they will do that because they are happy about the prices this season. Their deliveries are not low; we actually have more deliveries this season than last year and year-to-date the prices are 11 percent higher and deliveries 20 percent higher on last year.”

Jeffrey Moyo’s story is at: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-zimbabwe-tobacco-drought-idUSKCN0XM060.

Category: Breaking News

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