By Nhau Mangirazi.
Tobacco players are in pensive mood over forex retention amid calls for production to be on hold until the grievances are resolved.
A statement released Monday by tobacco players including Tobacco Farmers Union of Zimbabwe called upon all tobacco farmers in all corners of Zimbabwe to hold their harvest until the government pays 100% forex for tobacco retains or increase the exchange rate which is currently stagnant at US $1 – 25 RTGS since the commencement of this year selling season.
“The above rate is day light robbery and an insult to tobacco farmers who spent more than 6 months in the fields working on the crop, to get peanuts at the end of the day. The rate is much way below the parallel market rate pegged at US $1- 80 RTGS. Contracting companies and the government are benefiting more from the tobacco farmers sweat, this will see a decrease in the number of farmers who will go for the crop next season and an increase in contract farming compromising the independence of tobacco farmers. It is on public record and it is public knowledge that merchants are paid 100% Forex so why steal the other 50% from the farmers who are responsible for the crop production,”. The statement added that the decision whether to convert US $ to RTGS should lie with the farmer, the government should not decide for us , ” We are not kindergartens. The government should stop its vulturerous and vampirous attempts to continue sucking blood from the empty vessels of farmers. The RTGS 50% component is nothing to the farmers for they would have lost 3/4 if they use the current exchange rate which is being used in every retail shops including shops owned by the same people in government. Prices of basic commodities and farming inputs are going up every day yet the government exchange rate is stagnant. A loaf of bread for a tobacco farmer costs US $2 using the government exchange rate making it the most expensive loaf of bread on Earth. Farmers have lost hope in this government which totally turned a blind eye on them, taking advantage of the lockdown restrictions which makes co-ordination of farmers difficult. We call upon the government of Zimbabwe to respect tobacco farmers as important and crucial players in the growth of the economy as tobacco is one of the major sources of foreign currency in Zimbabwe. We also call upon Mthuli Ncube, Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Finance to address the above matter as a matter of urgency. Murimi munhu, farmers deserve a better treatment than this if we are dedicated to bring Zimbabwe working again”.
This comes against the backdrop of other sect like mines, Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions that have castigated the move by tripartite agreement meeting on Thursday last week that has not factored the deteriorating Zimbabwean dollar against hard currencies.