Speaking after selling their tobacco at Boka Tobacco Floors, a group of farmers from the Igava area of Marondera accused TIMB of not protecting farmers’ interests by allowing Propak, the sole supplier of the hessian material and wrapping paper to sell the material to unscrupulous dealers.
“TIMB must work closely with Propak in the selling of the material to farmers and make sure all those who buy it appear in TIMB’s records.
“At the moment transporters are buying the material from Propak before coming to us and selling it at US$8 yet they would have bought it for half the price,” complained one of the farmers.
The farmers allege that transporters are the ones benefiting more from tobacco than the producers.
“Imagine, a transporter comes and sells the material for US$8 then charges US$10 for transporting every single bale to the floors and when the farmer gets here the prices are as low as US$0,50 per kilogramme- that is a total loss,” another farmer complained.
In response to the farmers’ complaints, TIMB chief executive Dr Andrew Matibiri said the farmers were entitled to a refund for the material.
“If they buy from authorised dealers there is a refund but if they buy from roadside traders or transporters as they say, Propak cannot refund them as these sellers do not represent Propak,” said Dr Matibiri.
He, however, said Propak used to have distribution points in the tobacco growing areas but the facility seems to have died a natural death.
“Farmers must also desist from buying the material from undesignated points as Propak can sell directly to them without engaging the middlemen who later add an extra charge,” commented Dr Matibiri.
Meanwhile, Karoi farmer Mr Never Gasho said it would make sense if the Propak’s material was for hire and farmers would pay through stop orders facilitated by TIMB.
“We want the bags back as we grow and sell tobacco every year so we are saying it would be better if they off-loaded the tobacco and gave us back our packaging material instead of retaining it.
“Sometimes we even see vendors selling second hand packaging material in the streets and we wonder where they would have got it from. That is daylight robbery,” he said.
He said it would be better if the prices at the floors were allowing them to achieve parity but was quick to add that a lot of trees had been destroyed during tobacco curing when the crop was not adding any meaningful value to the farmers.