Speaking during the Western Zone Tobacco Growers Cooperative Union Ltd (WetCu Ltd) annual general meeting, the board’s Vice Chairman, Said Nkumba, warned that the board take stern action against all those violating the regulations.
“There are allegations that those involved in the marketing of tobacco practice corruption during classification of the crop, so as to favour some individuals, my board will be very keen on this and will take stern action against those involved,” he warned.
He said despite lowering or lifting tobacco grades, it was also a blow to farmers who are not ready to give bribes, hence their tobacco is graded low while it is of high quality.
Earlier, WetCu members complained to the vice chairman that they had fallen victim to this practice as their tobacco was graded low when they refused to give bribes.
The CCM Tabora regional chairman, Hassan Wakasuvi, said if this practice is not put to a stop, farmers will be compelled to look for other classification alternatives that do not involve the board to do that work.
Tabora Regional Commissioner Ludovick Mwananzila said the government will ensure that farming, grading and sale of tobacco follow all the laws, rules and regulations so that all parties can benefit.
He cautioned tobacco farmers against using children in their farms and directed Community Development Officers to ensure the directive is implemented, warning that all farmers using children will face the full wrath of the law.
Tobacco classification falls under the jurisdiction of the Tobacco Board of Tanzania under the current legislation, and speaking to experts on the sub sector it is common knowledge that the Country has more than 70 grades and which in turn attract prices following classification by the board.
Sellers and buyers have equal opportunities during classification, including removal of tobacco from the selling floor, and in case of grade disputes, only the board classifier has the final say.
The average price achieved for the last market season is USD2.41, according to latest data released by the TTB, which indicates a general improvement in the crop quality.
To arrive at good grades and be able to compete in the global market, the sub sector, under the supervision of the board has to account for, early planting following early rains, capacity in modern fuel efficient barns, avoid packing in barns, use of optimum /timely and specified fertiliser, reap every leaf, early topping, sucker free timely reaping, appropriately cured and properly graded and stored tobacco.