Philemon Mangena, Managing Director of Premier Auction floors said the rehandling of the bales was not only an inconvenience, but also time consuming.
“We would have handled the bales from receiving, laying and auctioning and when tobacco is rejected, we repeat the processes. We however have a facility for re-handling all rejected tobacco and it takes 24 hours to fix the defects but it is really an inconvenience for the farmers as besides paying for re-handling, they also wait for another 24 hours to sell their tobacco,” he said.
However, Tapfumaneyi’s tale of woes and frustration is not shared by Dorothy Nyahondo, a tobacco grower from the Doma area of Mhangura, also in Mashonaland West.
She says it is her responsibility to ensure her crop is properly graded: “I am an agriculture extension officer so I am always thorough when curing, grading and baling my tobacco. So far I have sold 6 000kg of tobacco,” she said.
Christopher Zvinoruka, an extension officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, attributed bale rejection to a lack of skills on tobacco handling processes.
He said: “Farmers do not spare some time to attend training sessions we offer on tobacco handling and market requirements.”
But the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board says efforts are underway to empower farmers with skills needed when they present their tobacco for sale.
“We admit tobacco rejection is a challenge and we are always making farmers aware of the need to present their tobacco well. Results are beginning to show as evidenced by the decline in the number of bales rejected from about 165 000 to the current 135 042 bales to date.
“There is also another challenge of nesting whereby farmers hide inferior tobacco in a bale with the highest grade so it is rejected as well by buyers,” said TIMB chief executive Andrew Matibiri.
Zimbabwe expects sales of 202 million kilogrammes of tobacco during the 2016/17 selling season.
As at July 12, 174 million kilogrammes worth $520 million had gone through the hammer.
Export destinations for Zimbabwean tobacco include Sudan, Belgium, China, Korea, Hong Kong, Indonesia, the Philippines, United Kingdom, Spain, New Zealand and Russia.