By Shingirai Vambe
Manicaland – We are not in a hurry to start the sale of tobacco, we need to make sure all the prerequisite material and facilities are in place for farmers to be safe of Covid-19, Tobacco Industry & Marketing Board (TIMB) Manicaland Regional Manager Emmanual Matsvaire has said.
As the sale of tobacco is set to commence tomorrow April 30 2020 , Manicaland is not fully prepared as operations are taking place under new and uniqyie conditions due to the Covid 19 pandemic.
Matsvaire told Post On Sunday that there was still a lot of work to be done on the ground to make sure both the farmers and buyers are safe of Covid-19 and well informed.
He said he wanted all of his staff members to be thoroughly tested and make sure there is not transmission of the virus at the auction floor from either staff members and farmers.
“I have contacted the Provincial Medical Director, Nyadundu to provide us with an isolation center and at least one trained medical nurse who will be conducting some testing and may also isolate those who would be suspected of the disease.”
“The isolation centre will be set at Boka Auction Floor and everyone should be tested, I have also requested to have a foot bath and all health essentials are in place before opening” added Matsvaire.
He further highlighted that no one will be allowed to sleep at the auction floor, according to the arrangement in place, farmers will be coming in batches and by 5pm all of those who would have come at that particular day will be served.
“We don’t want a situation where farmers would sleep in Rusape and or at the auction floors because of failure to be served, we want to avoid this as much as possible. We have already eliminated banks within the floors and instructed them to work from their branches” said Matsvaire.
Matsvaire said agriculture was not to suffer and farmers should be educated on protective measures. He said TIMB has designed fliers that police officers at roadblocks and tollgates would give to farmers informing them of Covid 19.
TIMB was still waiting for other material to be put at the floors, with inscription about Covid-19, how it spread and its effects.
This publication visited the floors where, Mr Brian Madzivanzira said preparations were still underway and they are now ready to start the selling process.
“We are doing our final touches today, and the rest is being done by TIMB, our selling process this time will be different, as already highlighted only those with one hundred bales will be allowed to get in and represent themselves while those with less than hundred will be represented by the growers representative” said Madzivanzira.
“This year’s process may take a little bit longer than that of last year because of the pandemic, but it will also help growers to have enough time to negotiate and turn down the offer if they are not satisfied” added Madzivanzira.
Experience from yester years selling season, farmers would sleep for days either at the floors or at the banks, it is anticipated that this may not happen now as the Reserve bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) is also working to deal with challenges which farmers came across last seasons.
Madzivanzira said problems which many farmers faced last season was to collect their money, so that they may be able to go back home, and this was not the buyers problem, but banks and their systems which is currently being looked at.
RBZ could not respond to questions sent to them by time of going to print, main questions was to check if there is going to be changes on the interbank rate, are farmers going to get their money in cash after sale, in USD or RTGS and measures they have put in place ahead of the this selling season in fighting covid-19.
However Matsvaire is very optimistic that this year’s tobacco will be well paid as it is on high demand and the best in the world, regardless of Covid-19, he said a good leaf will be paid well as always and urged farmers to do their best.