TOBACCO farmers have expressed frustration with the payment system for the crop at the auction floors, currently denominated in RTGS dollars saying the local currency gets wiped out by ever increasing cost of inputs.
When the 2019 tobacco selling season started, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) announced that farmers would get 50 percent of their sale proceeds in foreign currency.
But the growers accuse banks of not fulfilling that as they are being asked to provide invoices among other things, to be allowed to withdraw the hard currency.
The farmers told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Lands, Water and Climate, which was on a familiarisation tour of Boka and Premier Tobacco Floors that they do not understand why the Government was withholding foreign currency yet prices of fertiliser for instance, were currently pegged in United States dollars.
“Our tobacco is bringing in foreign currency into the country but meanwhile we are being asked to open Nostro accounts, which are unfamiliar for us. May authorities let us get a certain percentage of the foreign currency in cash and the remainder be deposited in accounts,” said one grower.
The farmers said banks were demanding invoices when farmers approached them to withdraw cash from their foreign currency accounts.
“In the end we are going back home without the hard currency as this is complicated for us,” said a Rusape farmer.
The farmers were also not happy with the low prices paid for their tobacco saying it demotivated them from growing the crop next season.
Acting Portfolio Committee chairperson, Mberengwa North legislator Tafanana Zhou said they would take up the farmers concerns to Parliament.
“The concerns raised by farmers are genuine. We need to sit down as a committee to make resolutions on how these can be addressed,” he said.
Tobacco is the country’s second biggest foreign currency earner, after minerals, though the bulk of the crop is exported in its raw form with the exports generating in excess of US$1 billion annually.
In a bid to motivate growers, the central bank announced that from this season, farmers would be paid 50 percent of their proceeds in foreign currency and the remainder in RTGS dollars using the prevailing market exchange rate.
Tobacco, once a preserve for white commercial farmers, is arguably one of the success stories of agriculture in the post land reform era. Last year, the country’s tobacco output reached an all-time high of 252 million kilogrammes, earning at least $1 billion.
— New Ziana