Irate farmers today stormed former Namboard shades and closed the tobacco market floors in protest of the low market price offered for the commodity. The angry farmers gave the tobacco merchants in the area 48 hours in which to increase the price of tobacco failure to which they would take serious steps to ensure that the price of the commodity was made favourable.
They claimed that they invested a lot of money in the production of tobacco and stated that it would be unfair for them to sale the commodity at 30 cents per kilogramme. A check by ZANIS found a number of farmers at the storage shade who accused tobacco merchants of exploiting them by setting low prices for the commodity. The farmers locked up the two shades owned by Alliance One and Japan Tobacco International (JTI) accusing the merchants of deliberately downgrading the tobacco in order to benefit themselves. Tobacco Board of Zambia (TBZ) Operations Manager Abiton Phiri was found addressing the farmers told them that he would forward their complaints to the relevant authorities.
One of the farmers Chiwele Maimisa said the setting up of the prices between 30 cents and USD240 was a mockery as they had spent a lot of money to grow and process the tobacco. “We need to get value for the produce because we spent a lot of money to cultivate and process it, most of the farmers used to spend nights in the cold and they owe companies where they got loans to produce the commodity, how do they pay back?” He wondered. Mr Maimisa said there was need to revisit the prices and ensure that it favours the farmers as farming was a business that helped farmers put food on their tables. Gilbert Kangwa alleged that the merchants had downgraded good quality tobacco in order to buy it at a low price, and yet them intended to sell it at a higher price.
“These merchants are selling the tobacco at higher prices on the international market,” said Mr Kangwa. Kenneth Tembo who also expressed displeasure with the low market price of tobacco said farmers were expecting the lowest grade of tobacco to be sold at 90 cents as opposed to the 30 cents which he said would lead farmers to poverty as they solely depended on farming for their livelihoods. Mr Tembo claimed that such actions by the tobacco merchants were de-campaigning the government as they were killing the agriculture industry which he said is the mainstay of Eastern Province.