Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Broken Hearts, Tension and Anger at the Tobacco Auction Floors

Zimbabwe: Broken Hearts, Tension and Anger at the Tobacco Auction Floors

TENSION was high at various tobacco auction floors in Harare last week where angry growers said they were being cheated by unscrupulous buyers.
The situation was especially volatile at Boka Auction Floors where farmers pushed for physical action, including protests, against what they said was a deliberate move by the buyers to shortchange them.
The farmers claimed that prices, which ranged from as low as US$0,60c to around US$3 per kilogramme, were a mockery of their hard work.
Anti-riot police could be seen milling around the premises, further incensing farmers who believed it was a move to intimidate them against protests.
Decked out in their full combat gear, the police patrolled the premises and its environs in a menacing manner.
One of the farmers, 27-year-old Kudakwashe Budayo from Bocha in Marange district, said she was disappointed by the prices that the auctions floors were offering.
"I left my two minor children with their father hoping I would sell at a good price but it has been so disappointing. I'm a new farmer but I do not think I will grow tobacco again," she said.
Looking dejected and angry, Budayo said she had sold three bales of tobacco for prices ranging from US$0,60c to around US$3 per kilogramme, which she said were very low by any standards.
"I know my crop was of excellent quality but they gave all sorts of reasons so that they could not pay well and in the process of sorting out, the weight of the bales was reduced drastically," she said.
Budayo accused some officials of corruptly taking farmers' tobacco and then selling it later.
"We do not trust the manner in which those girls were handling our crop," said Budayo. "They gave all sorts of reasons just to disqualify our crop. I am going home empty-handed. After all the hard work, this is what I get."
But officials at the auctions said some of the tobacco failed to meet the required grade because it was wet, badly packed or poorly sorted or cured.

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