Tobacco marketing season opens today
A senior Government official is expected to preside over the opening ceremony at Tobacco Sales Floor (TSF).
The tobacco industry and farmers have confirmed their readiness for the opening of the selling season, but low volumes of the crop are expected in the first two days as farmers get accustomed to guidelines set up by TIMB.
The 2020 tobacco marketing season officially starts today, with the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) expressing satisfaction with the level of preparedness at all auction floors, which have complied with Covid-19 preventive measures, including setting up clinics and isolation sites.
This marketing season will be different from previous years that were associated with large crowds of farmers, their family members, stakeholders in the industry, vendors and businesspeople, among others.
The number of people at the floors will now be minimised to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Not all growers will be allowed to attend sales. Growers with less than 100 bales per sale are not allowed to attend the sales and shall nominate a TIMB-registered grower representative.
Nominated TIMB-registered grower representatives at the floors shall make decisions on behalf of the absent growers. Farmers are the ones who nominate their representatives at booking, including formal agreements through legally signed affidavits by the nominator.
A visit yesterday by The Herald to the three major auction floors — Tobacco Sales Floor (TSF), Boka Tobacco Floors (BTF) and Premier Tobacco Floor (PTF) — revealed that the operators had put in place Covid-19 preventive measures that included footbaths, sanitisers on all entry points, masks for farmers, resting sites to promote maintenance of social distance, isolations sites and clinics among others.
TIMB chief executive, Dr Andrew Matibiri, yesterday confirmed that all was set for the official opening and said awareness campaigns on the new regulations of Covid-19 preventive measures were continuing.
“Auction floors will open tomorrow(today) and contract sales on Thursday. Deliveries are still low. We are continuing with awareness campaigns to farmers and we are confident the message of the Covid-19 preventive measures will get to all farmers,” he said.
BTF managing director, Mrs Chido Nyakudya said they will be operating from three sites; Harare, Rusape and Karoi.
“We are expecting a slow start because of the new requirements that were communicated to farmers late. We are expecting deliveries to start picking next week. Normally farmers also test the market before bringing their tobacco for sale.
“BTF is educating farmers through mobile text messages on the new TIMB regulations that are meant for their safety,” she said. PTF chairman, Mr Owen Murambi, said they were geared for the start of the season and had satisfied TIMB requirements.
“We also have five boom sprayers for sanitising the premises. We have introduced a conveyor belt to limit the number of people. Face masks will be available for farmers and staff and no farmer will be given accommodation at the auction floor.
“We are not expecting crowds and we have destroyed wooden stalls and flea market sites,” he said. Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) director Mr Paul Zakariya said irrigated tobacco was ready for marketing and work was underway to reap and cure.
“As such, cash flows are beginning to get stressed. Farmers are trying to familiarise themselves with the market adjustments that have been made to deal with Covid-19. To ensure farmers are adequately informed, all media platforms must carry the necessary awareness messages,” he said.
Source – The Herald
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