By Alois Vinga
RESERVE Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has relaxed payment terms for tobacco growers in a development that will see growers keep their portion in foreign currency as free funds.
This development marks a significant drop from last year’s deals whereby tobacco farmers received half of their income through their Zimbabwean dollar accounts, with the remaining half being deposited into their foreign currency accounts (FCA).
Most farmers have found it difficult to access their hard currency due to the inability to appreciate the processes involved.
But speaking at the official opening of the 2021 tobacco marketing season at the Tobacco Sales Floor in Harare on Tuesday, Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (TIMB) Chairman Patrick Devenish said after fruitful discussions with the central bank, payment terms have been relaxed.
“The industry and the RBZ have jointly put in place improved payment measures to ensure that tobacco farmers get the most out of their harvest and simultaneously get paid as quickly as possible.
“This will see producers receive 60% of their sales proceeds in foreign currency after deducting approved loans denominated in foreign currencies, and the 40% portion will be converted at the auction exchange rate in effect on the day of the sale and paid in local currency. ,” he said.
He said the 60% foreign exchange that tobacco growers receive should be treated as free funds.
Devenish bemoaned the generally humid conditions the crop was grown in this year, which caused the leaching of nutrients and the incidence of some bacterial diseases, particularly the angular spot, but generally a tobacco leaf of fair quality to good will be marketed.
In the 2019/20 season, tobacco hectares increased by 6.84% from 117,000 ha in the 2019/20 season to 125,000 ha.
He said that for the current marketing season, the number of registered producers stands at 145,625 compared to 147,931 the previous year, with more than 1,916 producers registered for the first time.
“The Board of Directors has authorized three auction floors for the 2021 marketing season, namely Tobacco Sales Floor (TSF), Boka Tobacco Floors (BTF) and Premier Tobacco Auction Floor (PTAF).
“As usual, the board of directors inspected the readiness level of the licensed auction rooms and all three floors were found to be ready for operation, including compliance with COVID-19 guidelines,” Devenish said.
He added that there would be decentralized contract sales in five designated centers. They are in Karoi, Mvurwi, Bindura, Marondera and Rusape.