AHL Group, managers of tobacco markets, has revealed plans to pilot e-marketing of tobacco towards the end of this year’s marketing season.
The development comes in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic, which has affected marketing of tobacco due to the restricted number of people allowed to witness tobacco sales.
AHL Tobacco Sales general manager Graham Kunimba said in a written response yesterday that e-marketing will be fully adopted in 2021 marketing season.
He said the future of tobacco sales lies in e-marketing and that AHL Tobacco Sales is already at an advanced stage in terms of rolling out the system.
Kunimba said the system is being developed by IC– Tech Africa, a technology company within the AHL Group.
He said they are waiting for authorisation from Tobacco Commission (TC) to showcase the system to stakeholders for their buy in.
Said Kunimba: “The e-marketing system will be used for both auction and contract sales. In fact, it has taken the interests of all stakeholders in the Malawi tobacco industry.
“We have adequate capacity to manage the system in terms of competent personnel, infrastructure and knowledge sharing.”
He said advantages of the system include quick sales turnaround and enhancing transparency as every buyer’s bid will be displayed on screen.
“As you can see, the system will also do away with corrupt tendencies if there were any since there will be little human interaction,” said Kunimba.
TC chief executive officer Kayisi Sadala said for the first time, this season has seen the introduction of secret bidding, a move away from the open auctioning of tobacco which brings buyers and sellers in close contact.
Sadala said Covid-19 and the secret bidding has given the regulatory body a wake-up call to explore other means of tobacco marketing, with e-marketing being a viable option to bring fairness.
He said: “In some advanced countries, they use e-marketing. That is the direction we should be considering to explore.
“It’s a fair system with no conspiracy of any kind.”
Sadala’s remarks come amid concerns from tobacco growers over recent perpetual poor prices offered by buyers.
Growers suspect collusion and conspiracy among buyers evidenced by recent surge in the rejection rate of about 80 percent.
Tama Farmers Trust chief executive officer Nixon Lita said tobacco growers are aware of the planned e-marketing, adding it is a move in the right direction.