Tobacco auction floors open under strict COVID-19 regulations.

by | Apr 7, 2021 | Business, COVID 19, Local News | 0 comments

Brian Rungano Temba
Tobacco farmers and merchants today converged at various auction floors around the country to mark the beginning of yet another marketing season for the golden leaf.
This year marks the second tobacco auction season under strict COVID-19 protocols, albeit with a few changes in place to reflect positive progress made so far in the fight against the pandemic.

Drawing lessons from challenges faced in the 2020 marketing season, Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (TIMB) set out some regulations for all auction floors to reduce the spread of the virus during auctions. The regulations set out by TIMB are specific to the tobacco industry.

TIMB public relations officer Chelesani Moyo said TIMB has decentralized selling floors to five strategic places in tobacco-growing regions to decongest the auction floors in Harare.

“All contract sales have been decentralised to our tobacco selling floors in Mvurwi, Karoi, Bindura, Marondera and Rusape,” she said.

Other tobacco auctioning companies that have opened facilities outside Harare in order to decentralize sales are Tobacco Sales Floors (TSF) and Boka Tobacco Floors. Farmers are more likely to utilize the tobacco selling floors nearest to them in the interest of reducing costs on logistics.

Moyo said the tobacco industry is doing its part to ensure business continues safely through guidelines that reduce traffic to auction floors thereby allowing observance of social distancing and other World Health Organisation regulations.

“Unlike in the past where spouses and children accompanied a farmer to the auction floors, we have instructed that only the farmer will be allowed in the floors. Delivering the bales should be the driver and one assistant,” said Moyo.

TIMB has also mandated that in order to reduce vehicular traffic, only seven-tonne trucks will be allowed to enter the off-loading bays. Taxis and other small vehicles will not be allowed to enter the premises.

“Farmers are coming into to the auction floors by way of bookings, this limits the number of people who turn up to the auction floors at any given time.

However, this year’s first day had a good turnout, showing signs of a very good season ahead. Today our first bale sold at USD 4.30 per kg,” she said.

Moyo confirmed that farmers are getting 60 percent of their net earnings in US dollars which will be deposited in their Nostro bank accounts while 40 percent of the net earnings will be in ZWL which is deposited into growers’ bank accounts at prevailing inter-bank exchange rate.
This is after deduction of taxes and loan repayments.

TSF floor operations manager Celani Sithole said that TIMB has begun vaccinating all employees against COVID-19.

“Out of the eight managers at TSF Harare, four managers have been vaccinated.The rest of the general staff are being educated on the importance of getting inoculated, they just came in since the floors opened today,” said Sithole.

Sithole said workers will be bused out to the nearest vaccination centers in Highlands and Southerton.

“TSF has also decentralised its tobacco floors for contract sales to Marondera and Karoi but has not yet established auctioning in those areas.

However, the TIMB standard COVID-19 regulations you see at the Harare TSF auction floors is the same that you will experience in Karoi and Marondera,” he added.
A Clinic and Police post have been set up within premises to assist with immediate isolation when a person with above normal temperature readings is detected by the temperature and sanitizing security detail at every entrance and exit on site.