tobacco queues.jpgThe Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (TIMB) says it will launch investigations into the conduct of re-graders at the auction floors in response to claims that growers have been prejudiced by unscrupulous re-handlers.

Claims arising from the auction floors are that TIMB licensed tobacco re-graders are taking advantage of desperate and ignorant growers, and demanding more than what is due for re-grading rejected tobacco.

Some farmers also claim that their tobacco has been lost in the process and they suffer lengthy delays before payment for the re-graded crop.

Technical Services Director, Mr Meanwhile Gudu said the re-graders are licensed by TIMB after fulfilling all requirements but the issue of pricing is out of the board’s discretion.

It seems it never rains but pours for tobacco farmers, who are also complaining of inefficiency of the booking system at some of the auction floors, a development that has forced them to rebook for selling their crop.

At the Tobacco Sales Floor (TSF), long queues are still the order of the day with farmers blaming it on the in-efficiency of the booking system.

“Despite heeding the call by the TIMB that we should book our tobacco before coming to Harare, we have to endure the pain of going through the booking process again as we are told a record of their bookings cannot be found,” complained one farmer.

The situation was however different at the Boka Tobacco Auction Floor and Millennium Tobacco Floors with farmers who spoke to ZBC News expressing satisfaction with services being offered.

Two weeks ago, the TIMB temporary suspended the delivery of tobacco at the auction floors in a move which was aimed at reducing congestion but it seems TSF still has a long way to go before achieving that objective after the suspension was lifted on the 9th of April 2009.

Despite all these hiccups, the  tobacco selling season entered day 44 this Tuesday with the figures released by the TIMB indicating that more than 1,8 million kilogrammes of flue cured tobacco worth close to US$5 million has been delivered on Tuesday the 19th of April.

So far, more than 47 million kilogrammes of flue cured tobacco worth more than US$138 million has been delivered to the auction floors since the opening of business in February.

Statistics indicate that there is a 30,79% rise in the total mass of flue cured tobacco sold this season as compared to the same period last year where around 36 million kilogrammes of the golden leaf worth around US$113 million had been sold by day 43.