Saturday, December 10, 2011

(HERALD) Tobacco growers stranded at ZFC depot

Tobacco growers stranded at ZFC depot
Saturday, 10 December 2011 00:00
Agriculture Reporter

Zimbabwe Fertiliser Company's Coventry Road depot in Harare for over a week waiting to get fertiliser. The farmers are members of the Zimbabwe Progressive Tobacco Farmers Union.

The growers said they paid US$55 per hectare to the union and an extra US$5 to Agritex to get letters of approval but it had taken long to get the fertiliser.
Rusape farmer Mr Brian Chawasarira said he had spent four days camping at ZFC to collect his fertiliser.

"When we applied for the input scheme, our union promised us that the fertiliser will be distributed to nearer points only to be told last minute that we had to process the documents individually," he said.

The farmers said they were surprised to find out there was a lot of paper work that needed to be done before they collected the fertiliser while others were having difficulties filling the forms.

This resulted in most of them having to spend days processing the application forms.
ZFC acting marketing executive Mr Justice Chamuka confirmed the chaos at the depot but said this was due to misunderstanding on the part of the farmers.

Most farmers, he said, were not aware of the application process when they came to ZFC and had to start registering instead of collecting the commodity.
"The fertiliser is being bought on credit and for one to do so there has to be a guarantor.

"For the farmers to benefit from the inputs scheme, they first have to register with their union, the union will remit funds to an insurance company and we get the list of approved farmers from the insurance company.

"The fertiliser is only given to those approved by the insurance company,' he said.
He, however, said the number of farmers coming to collect fertilisers had increased from around 50 per day to more than 300.

The depot is not only serving ZPTFU members but other farmers as well making it more complicated.

"We are now operating at 24 hours from factories and the Coventry depot is now open up to 8pm.

"We are now working over the weekends to ensure farmers are served on time.
"We have even taken staff from the Human Resources to assist serve farmers," he said.

Farmers complained that they should have been working in their fields and their stay at ZFC depot may result in significant loss of production time.

Another farmer, Mr Bright Chademana said he came to Harare intending to collect fertiliser but stayed longer than he had planned.

"I have no relative nearer this depot and can you imagine I am sleeping on the street.

"I was not prepared to stay this long and do not have enough money to buy sadza from vendors," complained Mr Chademana.

Mrs Annah Chiunda said it was disturbing that in a country where agriculture was the backbone of the economy, the farmer was suffering.

"We are suffering. Last season we had problems at the auction floors. We experienced shortages of heissan bags and now its fertilisers.

"Why are farmers being abused? We grow maize, GMB does not pay us on time, we shift to tobacco we get punished," she complained.

Some business people took advantage of the situation to boost their food sales.
They were selling sadza, drinks and bread to the stranded farmers.

"We do not have toilets here and some are relieving themselves on the streets," complained another farmer.

When The Herald visited ZFC depot yesterday, the security officers were struggling to control people visiting the toilets.

Some of the farmers were bathing in the toilets at ZFC while the company's staff complained of blocked toilets.

Yesterday ZFC management held a meeting with some leaders of the ZPTFU to resolve the problems being faced by farmers.

The situation was expected to improve.

Tobacco is one of the country's major foreign currency earners.

Many farmers are shifting to tobacco because of the favourable prices being offered on the market.



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