Tobacco contractors flagged over failure to pay farmers their 2022 dues

HARARE – Some contractors have not yet paid farmers for tobacco deliveries made during the 2022 marketing season, a situation that threatens their preparations for the 2022/23 cropping season.

George Seremwe, president of the Zimbabwe Tobacco Growers Association, told journalists Thursday that farmers were being exploited by contractors under the guise of contract farming.

“The contractual agreements have led to growers being caught in debt traps,” he said.

“We have a situation where farmers have not been paid for tobacco that was delivered during the last marketing season, yet the Act is clear that the farmer must be paid within 48 hours,” he said.

Asked on how many farmers were still being owed, Seremwe said they were still in their hundreds.

“We are still compiling the list of farmers. Daily, we are addressing farmers who are gathered at one of the contractors’ premises to get their money for delivered tobacco.

“They are getting a dollar today, $200 tomorrow,” he said.

Some of the affected farmers on Thursday picketed at the Glen Lorne head office of Voedsel Tobacco International, one of the contractors accused of not paying for last year’s deliveries.

Contacted for comment, a Voedsel official said the company cleared its own debt owed to farmers and transporters.

“All farmers and transporters were paid. By September last year, everyone had been paid,” said the official who identified himself as Andrew Muponzwa.

Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) spokesperson Chelesani Tsarwe confirmed some contractors had not paid farmers their dues as at the end of the 2022 selling season.

“As a Board, we reached out to the contracting companies that had not paid growers their dues and we gave them a deadline to clear what they owed before the 2023 marketing season commences.

“From our engagements, some payments have been paid and if there are any which are still outstanding, we urge growers to approach TIMB for further assistance,” she said.

This comes as the board is now conducting a crop assessment which determines the national crop size and dates for the opening of the 2023 selling season.

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