HARARE – Tobacco farmers are appealing to Government to be paid part of their money in foreign currency arguing that the crop they produce brings in significant forex into the country.
This came out at the Inaugural Tobacco Conference recently.
Tobacco farmers raised concern that they were being paid 100 percent of their money in local currency when they required foreign currency to buy machinery or other spare parts of their machinery.
The farmers complained that gold producers were being given 70 percent of their money in foreign currency while tobacco farmers were nowhere nearer the Central Banks’s priority list for foreign currency.
The farmers also urged Government to come up with a support price to protect them from low prices offered by buyers.
Tobacco Association of Zimbabwe president Guy Mutasa said farmers were paid in RTGS the 12, 5 percent foreign currency incentive was also in local currency.
“Farmers producing maize are getting a support price of $390 per tonne which is way above the prices offered regionally. This is meant to motivate farmers to grow more maize. We are producing a high value crop but we do not have a support price. The 12, 5 percent incentive is in adequate,” he said.
Responding to farmers’ Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement deputy minister Davis Marapira said the Ministry had been engaging the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) over the issue of foreign currency payments.
“A lot of activities that happen in the production cycle of tobacco require foreign currency and we will continue to engage the Central bank over the issue.
On the issue of low prices deputy minister Marapira urged farmers to work on the quality of the crop.
He said it was vital for farmers to acquire enough knowledge on tobacco production so they produce a good crop that fetched high prices on the market.
“We cannot control prices of tobacco like we do in maize and other crops. We are not buyers of tobacco. Farmers produce specific varieties of tobacco and these are required by different markets. There are certain market requirements and these are specific with the countries importing our crop. We can only encourage farmers to produce good quality crop and enjoy profits,” he said.
Other farmers suggested that they could maximise returns from tobacco production if they were allowed to process the crop theses.
Dep minister Marapira said farmers were not prohibited from forming companies that processed the crop as long as they had an available market that required processed material.
“The challenge can be how to access market that requires processed tobacco. Some major countries that buy our tobacco for instance China require raw tobacco so that they process themselves according to their requirements and also to create employment in their country.
“If farmers form their company. They can apply for a licence to operate,” he said.
Farmers also raised the issue of the afforestation levy which they said was unfair since they were not consulted when Government re-introduced it. The farmers also complained that they were not benefiting from the fund which was now more than $19 million.