Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (Timb) will carry out final inspection of the three tobacco auction floors and one contract floor tomorrow morning in preparation for the 2015 marketing season which starts next Wednesday, March 4.
Chief executive officer Timb Dr Andrew Matibiri said the tour would be a routine check to see if all the floors were in compliance with expectations of the industry that include facilities to accommodate farmers who would be expected to throng the premises as the selling of the golden leaf kicks off next Wednesday.
Farmers have for a long time been exposed to squalid conditions at auction floors during marketing seasons where they would be left to sleep in the open as they spent days waiting for their crop to be sold.
In some cases delays in paying farmers had also resulted in them being exposed to the squalor conditions with this year Timb promising farmers for an improvement in both facilities as well as prompt payment.
In an interview today, Dr Matibiri said Timb chairperson Mrs Monica Chinamasa, her deputy and Dr Matibiri himself accompanied by Timb management as well as members of the press would tour the auction floors tomorrow for final inspection.
“We are advising that the Chairman and Vice Chairman of Timb board, accompanied by management, Mr Gudu, Mr Dhokotera and myself and members of the press will be carrying out a final inspection tour of all the four auction floors on Friday, 27 March 2015 starting at 9.00am,’’ he said.
The first point of call would be Boka Auction Floors, followed by Premier Tobacco Auction, Zimbabwe Leaf Tobacco Company and Tobacco Sales Floor respectively.
Deliveries of tobacco which started trickling in at the floors last week have been small as most farmers are still in the process of curing their crop while others especially those who did dry land crop were yet to start reaping.
Some of the auction floor owners confirmed they were more than ready for the season as they had enough time to prepare since the marketing season started a month late unlike in previous years.
Boka auction Floors director for operations and special projects Mr Moses Bias said that deliveries had started arriving ahead of the opening of the selling season on March 4.
“Yes, we have started receiving deliveries of tobacco with a total of 165 bales having been received in the last two days.
He said so far deliveries were slow although the company was hoping to see an improvement before March 4.Premier Tobacco Auction Floors managing director Mr Philemon Mangena said everything was in place with the company more than ready to handle both the crop and farmers who would be delivering the golden to their floors.
He assured farmers that all the bankers were ready as such farmers should not fear that they would be delays in payment with five bankers in place.
“Everything is now in place with all our systems having been tested and is in good working order. All our bankers are ready to go as we will be working with five banks this year which are already on site,’’ he said.
He said a total of 200 bales had been so far been delivered with more expected as the week progressed.
As the season kicks off next Wednesday, farmers who spoke to The Sunday Mail said they hoped for better prices this year compared to last year which saw the crop at some floors selling as low as US$0,10cents per kg.
“I hope this year prices will be better because there is not much tobacco out her e after farmers lost their crop through hail as well as the mid season dry spell that affected the dry land crop. WE also hear that in Malawi there is not much tobacco after the floods that destroyed the crop there. So for us we should have better prices,’’ said one farmer from Karoi Mr Elias Magwenzi.
Last year saw the country selling a total of 216 million kg of flue cured tobacco which earned Zimbabwe $684 million.
Indications are however that the country was likely to miss this year’s target of 220 million kg due to erratic rains that characterized the early stages of the season followed by flooding.
Some farmers were forced to abandon their crop at the last minute after the dry spell.
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