One of the largest tobacco companies in the country, Boka Tobacco Floors (BTF), has opened a sales floor in Karoi – in Mashonaland West Province – which comes handy in reducing the number of farmers travelling to Harare to sell their commodity at a time Zimbabwe is battling to contain the spread of deadly Covid-19.
The 2020 tobacco selling season started last week after the authorities instituted strict measures to control the spread of Covid-19, which has infected 34 people and killing four in the country.
Tobacco is Zimbabwe’s second largest foreign currency spinner after gold and export receipts, mainly from China, some European countries and South Africa amounted to nearly US$750 million last year.
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor, Dr John Mangudya is on record that tobacco proceeds are almost enough to cater for the country’s fuel import bill.
The tobacco floors are usually congested during the marketing period, which normally runs between March and September and such environment posed high risks of the spread of infections.
Mashonaland West is a major tobacco producing province in Zimbabwe.
The sales floor is a rented building, but the company is already constructing its own facility measuring about 12 000 square meters, which would be ready by 2021 selling season.
BTF also owns an auction floor in Harare, the largest in the country and in Rusape.
“We are very excited to be bringing our services to all our Mashonaland West growers,” said Mrs Chido Nyakudya in an interview with The Herald Finance & Business.
“We would like to assure that we have put in place all measures to curb the spread of Covid-19. We are assuring our growers the best service.”
Mrs Nyakudya said the floor was open to other tobacco contractors who can use the facility to buy the crop from their farmers.
On Saturday, Zimbabwe extended a nationwide lockdown by two more weeks to contain the spread of the highly contagious disease, but allowed formal business to re-open under strict conditions.
This followed the lapse of the first five-week lockdown that came in two phases; the first being three weeks, which began on April 1 and further extended by two more weeks.
While measures under the current lockdown were relaxed, the informal sector which constitutes the majority of businesses in Zimbabwe, has remained closed.
Public gatherings of more than 50 people and operations of kombis remain suspended.
As part of measures put in place by the regulator, the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board to contain the spread of the disease, informal trading outside the floors has been banned.
Farmers will not be allowed to sleep outside the floors while waiting to sell the commodity. Tobacco output reached an all-time high of 259 million kg last year, but is expected to drop by 230 million kg as the planted area was affected by late rains last year.
Boka selling floor will serve farmers in Hurungwe District including Tengwe, Kazangarare, communities around Karoi, Nyama resettlement, Nyamakate and Magunje.
Even farmers in the areas around Chinhoyi have earlier access to Karoi than Harare.