FLEA market operators and vendors will be barred from operating around tobacco auction floors, while children under the age of 16 will not be permitted into auction premises under strict Covid-19 protocols introduced for this year’s tobacco marketing season.
Tobacco auction floors open on April 7 for self-financed growers, while contract sales will commence the following day.
Under new regulations crafted by the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB), auction floors will only accept tobacco deliveries between 6am and 5pm, with only one farmer allowed to attend the auction per every delivery.
Outlining the state of preparedness for the 2021 marketing season to Parliament last week, TIMB chief executive Dr Andrew Matibiri said police will be on the lookout for violators.
“The TIMB will enlist all relevant authorities, which include the Zimbabwe Republic Police and local government authorities, to enforce the complete closure and removal of all flea markets and all vendors around the perimeter of auction and contract sales floors ahead of and during the 2021 tobacco marketing season,” he said.
“The farmer shall be notified of his or her tentative selling time at the point of booking and only one farmer/representative to attend the sales. Selling floors shall accept tobacco deliveries as from 6am to 5pm, with trucks arriving outside the permissible time being turned away.”
Dr Matibiri said only two people, the driver and an assistant, are allowed on-board the tobacco delivery trucks.
“Each sales point shall have a designated isolation area in accordance with guidelines and recommendations from the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare.
“MOH&CC shall be engaged to give guidance on how to handle suspected Covid-19 cases referred to the isolation centres at the selling floors. Footbaths, full body cover mist sanitising sprays, hand washing facilities, comprising of running water with either an alcohol-based disinfectant or soap will be installed at entrance gates for use before entry, during and after sales.”
He said vehicles driving into the selling points will be disinfected. Dr Matibiri said auction floors have been requested to decentralise in order to decongest the floors in Harare.
“Auction floors are required to consolidate tobacco deliveries to minimise the number of farmers coming to Harare,” he said.
“Tobacco contractors operating decentralised sales points (outside Harare) should utilise these facilities in order to reduce congestion at the selling points in Harare.
“After classification and price determination, growers or their representatives shall be allowed into the sales arena in batches of 20 to conclude the sales.”
The wearing of face masks will be mandatory. Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement Deputy Minister Vangelis Haritatos said enforcement of Covid-19 regulations and security at auction floors will be tighter this year.
“I can confirm that the official date for 2021 flue-cured tobacco marketing season is indeed April 7, 2021,” he said.
“Last year was a great learning curve. We have made very slight changes to our Covid-19 regulations as compared with last year.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union president Mr Shadreck Makombe said the opening of floors was a relief for most farmers who had been severely constrained of cash.