Thursday, April 19, 2012
Wednesday, 18 April 2012 00:00
Obert Chifamba Senior Agriculture Reporter
TOBACCO farmers yesterday accused transporters of charging exorbitant fares to ferry tobacco to the auction floors. Farmers at the auction floors said the transporters were taking advantage of their desperation to demand unrealistic charges.
“Can you believe that we are paying US$25 per bale regardless of its size and weight. Transporters really know that when we have baled our tobacco we can no longer keep it at our homes so they adopt a ‘take or leave it’ attitude,” a farmer from Hurungwe in Mashonaland West said.
Another farmer from Chundu area in Hurungwe said the transporters, especially those with seven or nine tonne trucks were making a killing out of the farmers.
“They can carry between 100 and 125 bales per trip and if you do your calculations correctly you can see that they make a lot more than the tobacco farmers when the season finally ends,” he said.
“If you buy a cart and want to ferry it back home they are charging US$130, while for a wardrobe they demand US$50, a bed attracts US$15 with a grinding mill attracting US$100 while for a bag of fertiliser they charge US$6.”
Farmers from Mutorashanga said they were paying US$20 per bale while those from Nyazura and surrounding areas said transporters were demanding between US$12 and US$20 for a single bale.
One farmer Mr Onisimo Kureva said it would make sense if transporters just asked for a cover charge for a trip and not charge unit by unit, which was making it very expensive.
Most of the farmers agreed that a charge of between US$8 and US$10 per bale was reasonable and would leave them with a significant percentage of their revenue.
“Transporters also charge US$10 for the farmer to accompany his produce when we expected them to at least be compassionate and allow the farmer to be covered by the charges paid for the load.
“Some of the transporters are even in the habit of inflating their charges when they get here and you will be surprised when the deductions done through stop orders indicate that the transporter got more than you had agreed on,” he added.
The majority of the transporters present at the floors were not willing to talk to the Press.
However, there was one who gathered his nerve and defended their actions saying they were only charging what would enable them to maintain their vehicles on the road.
“Most of the roads in the farming communities are very bad and there is a lot of wear and tear that the vehicle picks so if we charge peanuts we will not remain in business,” he said.
Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board chief executive Dr Andrew Matibiri confirmed hearing complaints over transporters’ atrocious charges.
He urged farmers to be organised and work as groups when negotiating with the transporters.
“I think farmers’ unions too must assist the farmers in securing transporters who are genuine and not leave them at the mercy of mercenaries who only want to bleed the farmers.
“The disappointing thing is that most of the farmers that are falling victim to these unscrupulous transporters do not even want to come into the open and complain. Maybe they fear reprisals back home so they suffer silently,” Dr Matibiri said.