The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) has come to the rescue of over 20 000 tobacco farmers who where shortchanged in terms of quantity and value of farming inputs supplied, The Sunday Mail Business can reveal.
There are about 145 000 farmers contracted to grow tobacco this season and nearly 14 percent did not receive enough inputs from merchants.
The industry regulator, however, moved in to compulsorily de-contract them.
It has since emerged that some of the contracting companies expensed some items that did not add value to the farmers’ businesses.
This prejudiced the growers.
Realising how this was going to dent efforts to empower farmers and realise meaningful returns in foreign currency for the country, the TIMB ordered the 20 000 affected farmers to be given an option to sell their crop to the auction system or to merchants of their choice.
In an interview, TIMB chief executive officer Dr Andrew Matibiri said the regulator conducted a validation exercise to ascertain the value of inputs and quantities given to farmers this season, and was shocked by the extent to which farmers were being shortchanged.
Several tobacco merchants over-declared the value of inputs and the number of farmers supported.
Under new contract regulations, tobacco contractors are required to provide inputs worth US$1 000 per hectare for smallholder farmers and US$4 000 for large-scale growers