Posted with permission from allAfrica.com

More than 116 000 farmers have registered for the 2017 /18 marketing season, representing a 42 percent increase from 82 110 farmers who registered during the same period last year. At least 33 307 of the 116 000 farmers are new growers.

The increase in registration has largely been influenced by the need for farmers to obtain individual grower's numbers so that they benefit from the introduction of foreign currency incentives.

Government in 2016 awarded tobacco farmers an export incentive, which rewards the growers for generating foreign currency through exporting goods and services. The incentive pays the farmer a bonus of 12,5 percent on the foreign currency generated.

The use of plastic money has also made it difficult for the farmers to share their money after selling their crop as they are no longer paid in cash. The money is now being deposited in bank accounts or paid through EcoCash.

Farmers in Manicaland recently confirmed that they have been using other farmers' growers numbers to sell tobacco, but the introduction of plastic money and foreign currency incentive had made it difficult for them to continue with the system popularly known in tobacco growing areas as "kuberekana".

Odzi farmer, Mrs Rosemary Mudada said she had been forced to obtain a growers number because last season she could not get her foreign currency incentive.

"The bonus was received by the owner of the grower's number and there was nothing I could do, she said. I realised that I was losing out by using other people's growers numbers."

Some farmers said they paid the owner of the growers number $10 per bale, his or her travelling costs to Harare and their upkeep while at the floors. Another farmer, Mrs Stella Madondo said she could not trace her money after it was deposited into the bank account of the owner of the growers' number.

"To withdraw the money, I had to beg the owner of the account where the money was deposited and I could not follow up on the transactions. I do not even know how much I used, but I was just told I had used up all my money," she said.

Some of the farmers said they were failing to get growers' numbers because they did not have identity particulars while others were evading paying back loans.