TOBACCO farmers want to be allowed to withdraw at least half of their proceeds at once and get the balance in batches, as the $1 000 withdrawal limit was not adequate to meet their needs.
In a joint statement last week, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board and Tobacco Farmers Association said farmers would withdraw $1 000 from their first sale and then make withdrawals of $500 for subsequent sales.
In an interview with NewsDay yesterday, a tobacco farmer from Shamva, Leonard Chipoyana said the biggest challenge for them was that the $1 000 was inadequate, moreso when shops in the rural areas do not have facilities for plastic money.
“I sold tobacco and was given $5 000 and I’m only given $1 000 and what do I do with $1 000. We think at least the RBZ should allow us to get half of our money,” Chipoyana said.
“The challenge we are facing is that the money is not coming at once, we are only told we can withdraw $1 000 and the rest of the money we will collect from other banks with a withdrawal limit of up to $500.”
Another farmer from Macheke, Bronze Mutinhima, said he sold his tobacco on Wednesday and only managed to get his money on Friday.
“I came on Wednesday but only managed to access my money on Friday, it took three days for us to receive our payment because the system was down,” he said.
A tobacco farmer added she managed to withdraw $1 000 out of the $8 000 she was supposed to get from the 48 bales sold, which was inadequate to cover her needs.
“We are appealing to the RBZ that they should put in place favourable conditions for farmers. Giving us $1 000 is too little to address our cash needs. I have to pay my workers and these workers don’t have access to bank accounts let alone having an identification card, said the farmer, who identified herself as a Mrs Butai.
“We are only able to withdraw $1 000 per each sale and after that when we go to other banking institutions in the CBD we are given $300 or $500 depending on the day, so this is not workable for farmers.”
She said the major challenge was that workers in the rural areas want to be paid in hard cash, and with the RBZ directive this was untenable.
“Most of my workers want money in hard cash, they don’t have ID’s to open an account. I have complained to Barclays, but they only said it’s beyond them and the rules are from RBZ. Our appeal is that RBZ should make it flexible for the farmer so that we are able to access our cash when we need it, because currently it’s very difficult to access my money, they are telling us to use swipe but should we swipe what we don’t need.”
It was not only the cash limits farmers have to contend with. The e-marketing of the golden leaf, which was introduced this season has also affected them as it was slowing the process, according to Learnmore Mukano.
“The new system is still a challenge, it’s failing to take off and when it starts working it’s usually very slow.
I think they should just stick to the traditional marketing system which is less complicated,” Mukano said.
Tobacco is one of the country’s major foreign currency earners, raking in nearly $1 billion last year. Output is expected to reach 205 million kg this year from 202 million kg realised in 2016.
Despite contributing significantly to the economy, tobacco farmers are confronted with new hurdles each and every marketing season.
The beginning of the tobacco season is also expected to ease the cash shortages as merchants are projected to inject about $700 million for tobacco purchases.
Three auction floors — Tobacco Sales Floor, Boka Tobacco Auction Floors and Premier Tobacco Auction Floor — have been licensed to auction the golden leaf. In addition, TIMB has licensed 22 Class A buyers and 19 contractors.