Tobacco contractors are now required to support at least a minimum of US$500 per half a hectare and US$4 000 per hectare for small scale and large scale growers respectively as the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) moves to safeguard the integrity of the contract system.
The minimum packages include seed, fertilisers, chemicals, tillage, harvesting, curing and marketing resources.
The bulk of the tobacco in Zimbabwe is grown under contract farming where the contractors offer growers inputs and buy all the produce from the growers at the stipulated price.
Upon the sale the crop the contracting company will deduct the money for its inputs from the total amount earned by the grower through a stop order facility with the latter getting the balance.
Of late there had been an increase in the number of contractors, who have been accused of underfunding farmers and also over charging on inputs.
In a statement, TIMB said minimum inputs for smallholder growers US$500 per half hectare should include fertiliser, chemicals, curing fuel and other inputs but does not include agronomy extension services, interest and levies.
“Minimum inputs for large scale growers US$ 4000 per hectare to include fertiliser, chemicals, curing fuel and other inputs but does not include agronomy extension services, interest and levies,” said TIMB.
Contractors will also be required to provide proof of commitment or intent to the TIMB by June 30 of every year and failure to do so will lead to their suspension from contracting growers for that season.
All contractors will also be required to submit to TIMB a complete schedule of inputs and their costs by June 30 and failure to do so will lead to suspension for that season.
Contractors are supposed to submit copies of legally binding contracts by September 30 of every year and proof of inputs distributed either paid up invoices or payment plans with suppliers.
All contracted growers without accompanying signed contracts will be de-contracted. In addition TIMB requires contractors to submit a list of all contracted growers including their contact details by November 30.
“Principal contractors will consolidate sales of their third party suppliers both in Harare and at decentralised selling platforms. All sales should be done under one roof,” said TIMB.
TIMB chief executive, Dr Andrew Matibiri yesterday confirmed the developments and said the new measures were also going to give confidence to future investors.
“The new regulations are with immediate effect,” he said. “We had some fly by night contractors that had come on board and this was distorting our figures. We have introduced these measures so that tobacco growers will not be short changed and contractors will be guaranteed of their returns.
“We do not want the tobacco industry to collapse as what happened to the cotton industry years back.”
Tobacco Association of Zimbabwe president, Mr George Seremwe said they were happy that TIMB had listened to farmers’ plight.
“These measures will ensure farmers get complete inputs package and this will improve the quality and quantity of tobacco,” he said. “Contractors will also be protected from side-marketing.”