Tobacco farmers have withdrawn 98 percent of their tobacco auctioned on the first day of the opening floors yesterday (Wednesday) as they protest against poor prices being offered by merchants.
Confusion and disgruntlement have rocked the auction floors with reports by Tobacco Association of Zimbabwe (TAZ) showing that farmers withdrew 98 percent of their leaf on the first day of sale.
“It is worrying that our members had to withdraw their leaf, 98 percent of the tobacco auctioned on the first day was withdrawn owing to a number of factors chief among them, poor prices,” said the president of TAZ Mr George Seremwa.
Investigation by this news crew which were confirmed by TAZ show that the situation has been further compounded by merchants who reportedly boycotted buying the gold leaf in protest against the two percent levy put in place by government.
“Out of 38 registered merchants only four are buying, they are offering very low prices due to lack of competition, but the big concern is that they are protesting against the two percent levy. So if not addressed they will pass the cost to the farmer,” Mr Seremwa revealed.
The statement by the central bank that farmers will be paid 100 percent RTGS also sparked outrage with farmers threatening to hold on to the crop until they get 50 percent foreign currency retention announced by the RBZ.
“It’s confusing now because we heard on radio and newspapers that we will be paid 50 percent in RTGS and 50 percent in US dollars but all of a sudden we are told we get 100 percent RTGS and buy US dollars, this is not fair. As farmers we are being short changed, and if not addressed we will be left poorer,” complained the farmers.
The first bale fetched $4.50 but the bulk of the tobacco was sold at between $2 and $0.50 during the two days of sale.
Asked for comment, the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board could not confirm or deny reports that merchants are boycotting sales but said they will issue a comprehensive report this Friday (tomorrow) on the situation prevailing at the floors.