HARARE – The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) has failed to provide farming inputs it promised to tobacco farmers, amid indications that the board failed to raise money to support the project.
TIMB, a state parastatal, unveiled an input support scheme three weeks ago for all registered tobacco growers, saying it wanted to help boost production and crop quality during this summer cropping season.
Under the collateral-free scheme, the board promised to dispense fertiliser, seedlings and chemicals to tobacco farmers who are, in turn, expected to sell the tobacco to their preferred auction floors.
The TIMB will then recoup funds through a stop-order system.
But, the board has made an about turn and said it never unveiled the scheme, in a move that has rattled tobacco farmers.
Andrew Matibiri, the TIMB chief executive officer, yesterday told the Daily News the board failed to raise money for the scheme.
“We are always looking for money to help tobacco farmers and sometimes we fail to get the money. But we never promised anyone support or inputs,” Matibiri said.
“The last time we assisted farmers was in 2008 and since then we have been unable to do so.”
However, tobacco farmers let rip at the board and accused it of cheap politics.
“Last week we thronged TIMB offices after we realised that nothing was happening and the board claimed that it never unveiled the input scheme,” fumed tobacco farmer Josphat Chikumira.
“I was shocked by this because if they did not unveil the scheme why did they not clarify that position to us when media was carrying stories on this? I had increased my tobacco hectares in the hope that I will get the inputs. Now that TIMB has made a u-turn, who will provide me with those inputs?”
Edwin Rwafa, another tobacco farmer, said TIMB should just admit that it failed to raise the money for the scheme.
“What is surprising is that TIMB at the last minute bails out of a scheme that they promised us,” Rwafa fumed.
“This is cheap politicking because they indeed unveiled the scheme, but when they failed to raise money, they quickly denied ever doing so. TIMB should learn to be sincere because they have made us make wrong decisions in the hope that the inputs will come.”
Asked what was the way forward for desperate tobacco farmers, Matibiri said: “I do not know what they can do. They can go and apply for loans from financial institutions.”
At least 64 000 farmers have registered to grow tobacco this farming season.
Tobacco is one of the country’s major agricultural exports, accounting for 10,7 percent of Zimbabwe’s Gross Domestic Product.