Farirai Machivenyika Senior Reporter
The 2020 tobacco marketing season which was scheduled to open yesterday has been postponed to allow stakeholders to devise mechanisms to sell the crop while ensuring minimum risks of spreading the Covid-19 pandemic.
This was said by Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement Deputy Minister Douglas Karoro while addressing stakeholders in the tobacco sector at an online mock sale of the crop.
The sale was conducted at Northern Tobacco Auction Floors to showcase to stakeholders an online mechanism to sell the crop without farmers being physically present at the floors.
“I know the people out there want to know the exact date of the start of the marketing season. This is part of the assessments that we have done and we are going to inform our colleagues and the minister so that he also prepares a statement for onward transmission to the President and I am sure if we are happy here with these preparations, then the minister and the President will also be happy and they will guide us accordingly on the final date,” said Deputy Minister Karoro.
Announcing the extension of the lockdown on Sunday, President Mnangagwa called for the decentralisation of tobacco auction floors.
He said decentralisation would allow the enforcement of social distancing measures adopted to curb the spread of the virus.
The demonstration yesterday was led by Northern Tobacco chief executive Mr Glen Youngs and will see farmers sending their tobacco to the floors through a representative that would interact with potential buyers online in real time.
Co-Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement, Vangelis Haritatos said farmers should consider selling their crop online.
“We had read about the mock sale and the issue of a virtual sale in our research but certainly we have never seen it first hand and I think it’s a wonderful thing and there is greater transparency in the system. I think every farmer out there should go the virtual way if they can.
“I also liked the issue of having a grower representative on the floor. It shows they know the system and they can be trusted. I think we need to look at that now and going into the future there is no need to congest tobacco floors,” he said.
Mr Youngs said while the issue of decentralising was welcome, it would be difficult to implement this marketing season because of limited space in other areas outside of Harare.
“The idea of decentralisation makes perfect sense to me and as we speak, some competitors are also sharing floors but what might be a problem is that the physical space may not be enough. The square metres may not be enough to cater for huge number of farmers,” Mr Youngs said.