SWABI: The growers have complained that the new procedure adopted by the companies for purchasing tobacco in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic would delay the buying season beyond mid August.

Talking to Dawn, they said earlier each farmer was bound by an agreement to bring their produce to the purchasing point once a week, but now the turn of a farmer came after two weeks.

“In the past we took tobacco bundles to the purchasing point once a week, but now the companies have bound us to do so after two weeks,” Mohammad Sardar of Maneri Bala village said.

Safdar Khan, another grower of the same area, said the new process of buying would delay the process till end of September instead of the stipulated mid August.

The farmers said they usually completed the curing and selling task till mid of August, but the stretched purchasing process would also delay the payments, thus causing problems for the cash-starved growers. They said due to the delayed payments workers won’t be able to stay with them for such a long time without wages.

The growers demanded of the firms to revive the old purchasing procedure as it would spare them time for growing maize crop and vegetables.

Meanwhile, officials of the tobacco companies said the new policy had been adopted to help prevent spread of coronavirus among farmers and staff of the companies.

They said the growers had been told that they should use hand sanitisers and wear masks while entering the purchasing points.

They said the companies did not want to linger the purchasing process, but the circumstances had forced them to adopt preventive measures against Covid-19. They asked the farmers to cooperate with the purchasing companies’ staff so that all of their produce could be bought.

Published in Dawn, August 6th, 2020