By SYLVESTER MWALE -
THE Tobacco Board of Zambia (TBZ) will purchase about 800 tonnes of tobacco from farmers who are stranded with the crop after private merchants withdrew from the market.
TBZ board secretary Samson Muyembe said in an interview in Lusaka yesterday that the decision has been taken to help farmers have enough resources to finance their farming activities for this farming season.
Hundreds of farmers were left stranded with their crop, particularly in Eastern and Southern provinces after merchants decided to buy from a few growers they had sponsored.
Some farmers had been squatting at TBZ with their crop after it became clear that no one could buy their tobacco.
“This is an important decision for farmers because the Government has decided to buy the tobacco to allow them go back and start preparing their fields for the farming season.
“Although we may buy less, we had projected to buy 800 tonnes and we hope that the farmers would now be able to raise enough resources and continue growing the crop,” he said.
The board projected to buy more than 400 tonnes from farmers in Chipata, while more than 300 tonnes would be bought from Southern Province.
Mr Muyembe assured that the Government would not let the farmers down but ensure that every tobacco brought to the market was purchased to motivate the growers.
He said the Government wanted to cushion the impact that had been created with the withdrawal from the market by the private buyers.
The Board secretary said TBZ would later resell the crop at the appropriate time.
The tobacco market has been going through a turbulent period with many farmers struggling to sell their crop as companies concentrate on buying from farmers under agro schemes.
There have also been concerns of lower prices of the crop despite being produced at high cost by the small scale farmers.
Recently, Zambia’s top tobacco merchant, Zambia Leaf (Zamleaf) indicated its intentions to close down after operating in the country for eight years.
Zamleaf management has decided to wind up on account of unsustainable business in tobacco, which was a leading cash crop.