Tobacco contractor suspended for ‘defrauding’ growers

HARARE – Tobacco contractor, Vision Leaf Tobacco has been suspended from operating on allegations of impropriety, among them defrauding growers.

In a communication to Vision Leaf Tobacco management, Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) said the suspension was necessitated by an assessment which discovered some anomalies in the contractor’s operations.

“Consequently, the TIMB has suspended your contract sales with immediate effect and you are directed to stop conducting sales and resumption will be determined by your remedying of the above issues,” said the regulator.

In an interview, TIMB public affairs officer Chelesani Tsarwe said the contractor was suspended for violating the Contractors’ Compliance Administration Framework.

“This includes altering Goods Received Vouchers (GRVs), non-disclosure and or absence of prices of inputs issued to farmers and underfunding only to charge abnormally high a mark-up rate for inputs is a way through which contractors defraud the tobacco grower.

“The welfare of the grower is at the epicentre of TIMB’s operations and this season we will not allow the grower to be victimised.

“We have a tough stance against non-compliance to industry regulations, short-changing tobacco growers and other actions that destabilise the tobacco industry,” she said.

Over the years, tobacco farmers have cried foul over deductions made by contractors for inputs supplied, accusing them of inflating prices.

Officially opening the 2023 tobacco selling season recently, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga implored the TIMB to ensure that the whole value chain operates in fairness, ethically and transparently.

“As the 2023 tobacco marketing season takes off, the TIMB should enhance transparency and fair tobacco sales at contract and auction floors, including analysing, recommending, improving and facilitating equitable, transparent and profitable sharing of expenses and profits throughout the tobacco value chain,” said VP Chiwenga.

Zimbabwe expects to produce 230 million kilograms of tobacco this year, up from 212 million kilograms last year, following good rains and after more farmers planted the crop.

A total of 32 contracting companies were licensed to operate this tobacco selling season.

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