Tobacco sales at the Lilongwe Auction Floors in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe were on Tuesday suspended following disagreements that ensued on what kind of system to be used to buy the green gold.
Malawi Government directed this year that 80 percent of tobacco should be bought using the contract system, while 20 percent on the auction system.
Some farmers who also complained of the system of auctioning said in an interview that for a couple of days now those selling using the auction get better prices, while the ones selling on contract get a raw deal.
The farmers, Jonas Kantola and Changalanthunya of Mtengowanthenga from Dowa said they sold nine bales of tobacco on contract, but the highest bale fetched $1.10, contrary to their expectations.
“We are suspicious with the auctioning system,” Kantola said.
Changalanthunya said farmers are suspicious that auction prices were better tobacco buyers decided to split the days of buying tobacco so that those on contract should not be around when the crop is bought using the auction system.
“We know that these buyers don’t want us to know how the auction system is fairing because better prices are being given to auction farmers. My friend last week sold his tobacco using the auction system and got over $2.60 per bale, while I sold a bale on contract at $1.15,” Changalanthunya said.
Auction Holdings Limited (AHL) corporate communications manager Rosita Tanamana confirmed that the market was suspended.
Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) chief executive officer Bruce Munthali also confirmed about the suspension.
“There was communication breakdown between TCC and tobacco buyers over which system was to be used yesterday [Tuesday]. But we have resolved the differences and sales will resume today,” Munthali said in a telephone interview from Mzuzu.