TCC takes on tobacco buyers

 

Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) has warned tobacco buyers against their alleged tendency to sample the leaf quality that they want to buy on contract or integrated production system (IPS) at satellite depots.

The development has left some growers stuck with “unwanted tobacco” at satellite depots, it has been established.

Business News findings show that some buyers in collaboration with Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama) have been visiting some satellite depots to sample the bottom leaf, which is thin leaf and mostly sold during the early weeks of the market.

TCC chief executive officer Albert Changaya, in a letter dated August 31 2016, a copy of which Business News has seen, warns tobacco buyers and growers’ associations to stop the behaviour or face disciplinary action.

Flashback: Tobacco sales in progress at Limbe Floors
Flashback: Tobacco sales in progress at Limbe Floors

Reads part of the letter: “It has come to my attention that some tobacco buyers are going out to farmers’ field and satellite depots to sample only tobacco quality that they want on contract marketing. Farmers are left with

unwanted tobacco.

“Please note that this malpractice is a strong violation of marketing of tobacco in Malawi. This malpractice must stop with immediate effect and this letter serves as the first and last warning.”

In an interview last week, Changaya confirmed to have authored the letter to all tobacco buyers, warning them that the malpractice and the behaviour is giving an upper hand to some buyers.

The tobacco buyers had not responded to Business News questions at the time of going to press, but speaking on behalf of Tama, head of marketing and business development Felix Thole said last week they were doing farmers a favour by being involved in the practice.

He said buying companies approached Tama for some specific leaf styles because they recently received new orders from their customers for the bottom leaf.

“They asked us if some of our farmers have the specific styles,” said Thole.

However, he said some buying companies thought the behaviour was anti-competitive and reported the matter to TCC.

In an interview from Kasungu, one of the affected farmers who sells his tobacco at Chinkhoma Floors on contract, said he was surprised to note that he was only left with unwanted leaf.

“We just heard that Tama and some buying officials came to the satellite depot to sample the bales. They were looking for the bottom leaf, which is out of stock now. I am now left with 65 unsold bales at the moment,” said the farmer.

Another farmer from Chilowa Matambe in the same district said she does not know what to do with the unwanted leaf.

As of week 23, 166 million kilogrammes (kg) of tobacco has been sold, raking in $226.2 million (K165 billion) while 184.5 million, brought in  $326.8 million (K238 billion) same period last year. n

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