The introduction of tobacco receiving centres has helped reduce transportation costs for farmers.
According to AHL Group, the centres are a response to grower concerns on the high transport cost of tobacco and poor handling management of the leaf when it is being ferried to the market by third party transporters.
Some farmers and receiving centre managers said tobacco bales once received by the centres are immediately logged in the tobacco market system and sold within few days.
In the past tobacco bales would be dispatched directly to the auctions where the waiting periods are longer and the leaf was exposed to external elements such as rain or sunshine.
Tobacco Association of Malawi also faulted the old system and attributed the slow tobacco volume sales to transportation challenges as the Tobacco Commission (TC) accredited few transporters.
But speaking during a media tour last week to Mzuzu Auction Floors, AHL Group public relations manager Teresa Ndanga said when farmers sell their crop quickly they benefit.
“When farmers sell within a short period of time it also help us to save on tobacco market management costs. For instance, last year we sold tobacco within 24 months and if the same process took 30 or 40 weeks it means we are spending a lot. So with this system it means the entire process is faster,” she said.
Mzuzu Auction Floors manager Happy Mugala said some farmers have been facing challenges such as delayed tobacco deliveries to the floors, missing of bales and sometimes the quality of tobacco being compromised because of logistical challenges.
“After soliciting different complaints from growers and stakeholders we felt it was necessary to extend our receiving service which takes place right here at the floors closer to the farmer to ensure a farmer is assisted as soon as possible.
“There are a number of advantages to this arrangement for instance it fastens the delivery of tobacco to the floors and without compromising the quality of tobacco and loss of bales is eliminated because it was one of regular complaints from farmers”.
Similarly, Chinkhoma Auction Floors manager Stanley Anselimo said most tobacco farmers are in hard-to-reach areas where without the receiving centres growers were forced to sell to vendors.
So far figures released by the TC, as of last week Friday which was week 13 of tobacco sales, Malawi had sold about 104 million kilogrammes (kg) against the seasons projection of 205 million kg, raking in $155 million (about K114 billion).
During the same period last year, the country sold 126 million kg and generated $219 million (about K162 billion).
This year prices have also been low compared to last year same period because as at week 13, prices averaged $1. 48 (about K1 095) per kg compared to the same period last year at $1.73 (about K1 280) per kg.