Mash Central Bureau
Tobacco sales open today at the Bindura Tobacco auction floor today, with 5 million kilograms expected from the 3 082 farmers the firm contracted in Mashonaland Central.
Bindura Tobacco general manager, Mr Blessing Mudzamba, promised firm prices and an efficient payment system.
Last season, the company bought 0,6 million kilograms of tobacco after it opened the floor in Bindura to decentralise operations from Harare and next farming season, the company plans to double the tobacco hectarage to 6 000 with an expected production of up to 9 million kilograms.
“We are ready for the tobacco selling season and all the preparations have been made. Our staff members are on the ground. We started receiving tobacco bales on Tuesday and we are expecting to start the buying season today with more than 700 bales,” he said.
“We have contracted 3 082 tobacco growers who have a total of 3 200 hectares. Not all the farmers are from Mashonaland Central. Some are in Karoi and Murehwa, but the bulk of the farmers are in this province from Guruve, Centenary, Mt Darwin, Matepatepa and Mutungagore.
“We are expecting not less than 5 million kilograms from our contracted farmers. Last season we didn’t buy much tobacco because we opened in the middle of the selling season in July and also we were operating in a new place.”
Mr Mudzamba said his company had received 140 bales ahead of the opening day, “which is quite encouraging”. Arrangements have been made with Nedbank to provide efficient payment to farmers.
“The bank is not in Bindura and they will be operating from OK Zimbabwe supermarket. The bank has assured us that they will process payment of farmers on the same day their sale is concluded. The farmers will access their US$ promptly,” he said.
“Last season we were paying at the auction floor but now our scheme is bigger and the risk of disbursing cash at the floor is high. There is no need for farmers to travel to Harare to sell their tobacco when we have an auction floor at their doorstep.
“We will enforce the tobacco industry policy of ‘deliver tobacco today and sell tomorrow’ to maintain order.
“We will buy from self-funded growers only after they are cleared by TIMB. We will be following the health protocols on Covid-19. Farmers will be allowed to enter the floor in smaller numbers, a maximum of 10 people, to observe their sale.”
The company has a well ventilated offsite tent, which has been designed as the sitting area for farmers.
Farmers will be screened for temperature and sanitised at points of entry and exit.
A Covid-19 response team will be at the floor to manage suspected cases of Covid-19.