The 2017 tobacco selling season kick-started on a very high note this week with high expectations that the golden leaf will ease the liquidity challenges the country is currently facing.
Tobacco farmers who delivered their crop on the opening day at Boka Tobacco Floors where Minister of Agriculture, Mechanization and Irrigation Development Honourable Dr Joseph Made officiated the opening ceremony were satisfied with the opening price which was pegged at $4, 60 per kilogram and expectations from stakeholders were high that the price would continue firm as the marketing season progresses.
Minister Made together with other honourable delegates who included Ambassador of the Republic of China to the Republic of Zimbabwe Huang Ping were made to have a feel of how the newly introduced e- marketing system operate. Unfortunately, there was a technical glitch on the new system which resulted in all the three auction floors reverting back to the old manual system. Tobacco farmers present were quite happy to get back to the old system citing ignorance and lack of confidence on the new e-marketing system.
Most farmers who were at the floors that day revealed that they got to know about the e-marketing system on the opening day and that they were confused on how the system operated. The truth of the matter is that the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) and other responsible authorities did not conscientise the tobacco farmer on the new system, hence the apprehension. Proper engagement and awareness should have been made well before the opening of the marketing season to all tobacco farmers across the country.
The technical gadgets and systems involved should have been sampled several times prior to the opening day to avoid embarrassment and enhance efficiency.
Without enough farmer education and awareness, the e-marketing is likely going to face the same resistance just like the new education curriculum is facing.
Despite the hick-ups, the tobacco auction floors in Zimbabwe are geared to resort to the electronic marketing system rolled out by TIMB, replacing the traditional system where the auctioneer would shout out the bidding prices.
The electronic marketing or the e-marketing system has several advantages though, to the tobacco sector among them reducing corruption, improving transparency, reduce side marketing, illegal sales and theft which farmers should be educated about.
TIMB trained buyers on the new system and ran a dummy sale with buyers at one of the auction floors but however did not reach out to farmers, who are critical stakeholders in this foreign currency earning sector.
The TIMB licensed three auction floors which are Boka Floors, Premier Tobacco Floors and Tobacco Sales Floor for the 2017 tobacco marketing season. The golden leaf is expected to reach 200 million kilograms ensuring Zimbabwe fetchs several millions of dollars from tobacco marketing this year.
- Tendai Guta