The Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (TIMB) has de-registered 37 000 growers from producing tobacco this year on strong suspicion of side-marketing last season after they failed to deliver at any tobacco auction and contract selling points.
The move has been taken to protect the industry from unscrupulous dealers which has threatened production.
“TIMB deregistered over 37 000 growers who registered and subsequently grew tobacco in the previous seasons but did not deliver any of the tobacco to the auction and contract selling points, on strong suspicion of engaging in side-marketing activities,” said the regulator.
“TIMB has put in place a Compliance Administration Framework which seeks to ensure that emerging challenges around the dual production and marketing system are effectively addressed.”
Government gazetted Statutory Instrument 77 of 2022 which was published on April 15 this year that led to the criminalization of side marketing of the golden leaf in an attempt by authorities to protect one of the country’s major foreign currency earners and source of livelihood for millions of Zimbabweans.
According to the Gazette, any person who participates in side marketing shall be liable to a fine not exceeding Level five (5) or to imprisonment for a maximum of six (6) months or to both such a fine and imprisonment.
However, there has always been the challenge of contractors failing to pay growers on time which often times leads to farmers side-marketing.
“However, it takes two to tango. If the farmer is contracted and given adequate resources and they are paid on time, then it is a very welcome development. Contractors who do not pay must be arrested because they create opportunities for farmers to end up side marketing. When the crop is ready for marketing, contractors must be ready to pay,” Zimbabwe Farmers Union secretary general, Paul Zakariya was earlier quoted in state media.
Nevertheless, according to TIMB preparations form this year’s tobacco farming season are progressing well with over 4 000 hectares of early irrigated tobacco having so far been planted an area higher than that established during the same period last year.
A total of 106 067 growers have been registered to grow tobacco in the 2022/23 marketing season a significant increase from the 80 069 registered last season.