Fungai Lupande Mash Central Bureau
Bindura contract tobacco floor was officially opened yesterday, bringing relief to farmers who used to travel to Harare to sell their crop.
The commissioning of the floor opened opportunities for investment in tobacco processing plants in the province.
About 350 bales of tobacco were delivered to the floor with one farmer’s crop fetching US$5.50 per kilogramme, which was the highest for the day.
Although the auction floor opened in the middle of the tobacco selling season, the contractor Curverid Tobacco is expecting to buy over six million kilogrammes.
Officially opening the auction floor, Minister of State for Mashonaland Central Province Senator Monica Mavhunga said it was President Mnangagwa’s vision for provinces to grow their economies using their natural resources.
“Agriculture and other economic sectors like mining are the major contributors to the provincial Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“We are the major producers of quality tobacco and we are proud to contribute to the national volumes,” she said.
“Nothing can stop us from having a processing plant set up in the province. The opening of the floors came as a huge relief to farmers from districts like Mt Darwin and Rushinga who travelled to Harare losing their crop and money to thieves in the process.
“Some endured long queues without a place to sleep and exposing themselves to unscrupulous middlemen. As farmers get paid for their crop, the money will go towards the development of the province and the retail chain business.”
Provincial Agritex officer Mr Stancilae Tapererwa challenged other tobacco companies to open shops in the province and ensure further decentralisation of tobacco auction floors to districts like Mt Darwin.
“Bindura had 3 447 hectares under tobacco and their market is now in the district. Mazowe had 6 875 hectares and we are happy that there is a floor in Mvurwi Town, which is also serving farmers in Guruve and part of Centenary,” he said.
Mt Darwin was the biggest producer of tobacco with 8 012 hectares of the crop which makes is prudent to decentralise floors from Harare to curtail transport challenges farmers were facing.
The province had 32 890 hectares under tobacco with an average yield of 1.5 tonnes to 4 tonnes per hectare.
Bindura Tobacco general manager Mr Blessing Mudzamba said they were adhering to strict Covid-19 precautionary measures with farmers allowed to come and do their sale under Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) guidelines.
“We have a spacious sitting area for farmers and they are screened for Covid-19. Curverid Tobacco is making US dollar cash payments.
“We are offering farmers free transport to the floor,” he said.
He said plans were afoot to have a bigger premise for the next season and that the floor was accepting non-contracted tobacco after verifications and consultations with TIMB to avoid side marketing.