The government cannot protect tobacco farmers from makorokoza- unscrupulous people that take advantage of the farmers by duping them into selling their crop to them after claiming that they offer higher prices than the auction floors-because this will be very difficult to enforce.
Deputy Agriculture Minister Paddy Zhanda said yesterday it was really up to legislators to educate the farmers not to sell their tobacco to other growers. “It is like we have to establish a police force that will have to look at whether there are side deals which are likely to be made within the auction floors.”
Zhanda was responding to a question from Makoni South Member of Parliament Mandi Chimene who wanted to know what measures his ministry could put in place to protect farmers from makorokoza who hang around the auction floors and dupe farmers to sell their crop to them.
She said the makorokoza had growers’ numbers and they cheated farmers by pretending that they offered better prices than the auction floors. After buying the tobacco they removed the farmers’ growers’ numbers and put their own and resold the tobacco on the auction floor.
Chimene said when the makorokoza were arrested, it appeared that they bribed the police, because they were back at the auction floors within hours, and started cheating farmers once more.
Zhanda said growers’ numbers were meant to facilitate orderly marketing of tobacco so his ministry could not control or stop other farmers from getting growers’ numbers.
The only solution is to educate farmers to avoid any side marketing and sell their crop directly to the auction floor.
Q & A:
MS. CHIMENE: Are there any measures which can be put in place to protect the farmers from the so-called makorokozas who come to the floors holding growers’ numbers but they do not have farms? They cheat the farmers. They tell farmers that prices inside the floors are so poor that they can offer US$2/kg and claim that in the floors, prices are 50c/kg. Because same farmers are not knowledgeable, they sell that tobacco to the makorokozas. The makorokozas remove the tags, put their own resell the tobacco in the floors.
We were at Boka and Premier Auction Floors today. We witnessed this complaint. Is there any way that the Ministry can control the issuance of the growers’ numbers? Is there a way that TIMB can be advised to play their role properly and not just wait until tobacco season kicks off? We need the Zimbabwe Republic Police to play their role as well because we were told that these makorokozas are arrested but within hours, they will be back at the floors cheating the same farmers.
Is there any way the Ministry can protect the farmers from being cheated because they are being cheated?
MR. ZHANDA: This issue which has been raised by the hon. member is a bit complex because we cannot control or refuse other farmers to get growers’ numbers. The reason for growers’ numbers was to facilitate orderly marketing. She knows very well that going to the auction floors, she would have gone there with a grower’s number. It becomes difficult for the Ministry to dissuade one from being tempted of better money by unscrupulous dealers.
The onus does not rest with the Ministry alone but the hon. members in this House and in particular, where tobacco is grown that they must also try to educate people, not only at political meetings but also at other educative meetings. They should educate their growers to be careful and not to be tempted wanting to sell tobacco through somebody’s grower’s number.
In actual fact, the question is whether the grower wanted to side market the tobacco by wanting to go through somebody instead of him or her selling directly. She can only complain after realising that she has not gotten what she thought she would get. It becomes a very dicey situation for the Ministry and it becomes a police issue when you give your employee money to come and buy something into town and then get sweet talked and leaves the money behind. The Ministry of Home Affairs can at that juncture take up the issue and deal with it.
From a Ministry’s point of view, I do not see how we can protect the farmer once he is at the auction floor. It is like we have to establish a police force that will have to look at whether there are side deals which are likely to be made within the auction floors. I appreciate the hon. member’s question but it would be very difficult, save to say that both hon. members and ourselves have a duty to educate our farmers not to be tempted to side market their produce.