By Believe Tevera (President of Tobacco Farmers Union of Zimbabwe)
Tobacco Farmers Union of Zimbabwe (ToFUZ) wishes all tobacco farmers in Zimbabwe a swift and progressive 2021 tobacco selling season.
As tobacco farmers, we faced numerous challenges last season that consequently resulted in a decrease in the number of farmers who registered to grow the crop for the 2020/21 season. On several platforms, we have urged the authorities to initiate flexible input schemes for tobacco farmers not willing to join the contract system.
The Government should also through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) unveil low-interest loans for tobacco farmers especially women and youths who are finding it difficult to fund their projects. This will certainly see an increase in tobacco production as farmers will increase hectare capacity.
Our concern as a union is to see totally empowered tobacco farmers who can independently make decisions without conditions as the case with contract farming.
Given that tobacco is the country’s largest single foreign currency earner after gold and it contributes much to our economic growth as a nation, tobacco farming should be promoted through supportive input loan facilities.
Due to challenges faced last season, some farmers carried over bills from last season, forcing most farmers to join contract farming schemes for this season.
ToFUZ has raised concerns to the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB ) and further engaged the central bank. Due to the productive engagement with the RBZ, the following policy review was enacted for the upcoming marketing season
1.) The foreign currency retention was increased from 50% to 60 %
2.) No compulsory liquidation of forex retained
3. Farmers are free to purchase and/or supplement their foreign exchange requirements from the auction system.
Though we would have wanted 70% forex retention for farmers, we applaud the RBZ and the Ministry of Agriculture for the policy review which is set to benefit farmers.
We also urge farmers to make use of the auction system if need be as the doors are widely open for tobacco farmers to purchase and/or supplement their foreign exchange requirements from the auction system.
We also take this opportunity to urge all farmers in all parts of Zimbabwe to stay safe, Covid-19 is real. Let’s always mask up, observe social distancing and adhere to all safety regulations during this 2021 tobacco selling season.
Once again we wish you all a peaceful, swift, progressive, and profitable 2021 tobacco selling season.