With just a few days before the opening of this year’s tobacco marketing season, Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) has flushed out 22 tobacco transporters from the system in a desperate attempt to bring sanity.
The move comes against an outcry from growers who have complained of inefficiencies and alleged corruption, which affects their take home earnings.
Already, the screening process has created a rift between transporters and the tobacco regulatory authority, which according to a source, could delay the proposed opening dates for this year’s marketing season on April 11 at Kanengo Auction Floors in Lilongwe.
TCC chief executive officer Albert Changaya, in an interview on Wednesday said out of the 39 transporters who applied only 17 qualified.
“If you fail exams, you are free to contest, but the exam is the best thing of assessing someone. Obviously if you fail, you are not happy and you would want to talk to the teacher, but time is now gone,” he said.
Changaya said the transporters who were left out should accept that they did not meet the selection criteria.
“You would not believe what some of these transporters were saying during the screening exercise. Some were openly boasting that this is the time that they steal from farmers because they get money upfront and deductions at the floors,” he said.
Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama) chief executive officer Graham Kunimba has since applauded TCC for the move, saying sanity will be restored in the tobacco transportation system.
“Farmers have been duped by transporters for a number of years and this will bring sanity in the whole system,” he said.
Road Transport Operators Association (Rtoa) executive director Chrissie Flao has also welcomed the development, saying the system will now be orderly and deal with congestion at the auction floors.
“There were a lot of illegitimate transporters’ associations which were duping farmers. We needed some organisation in the system,” she said.
Transportation of tobacco to the floors is a critical issue in tobacco marketing, and according to TCC, tobacco haulage is the most lucrative transport business in Malawi.
While all transport costs and charges are deducted from the grower’s sales proceeds, there were reports of high level of underhand dealings by transporters beyond the stipulated TCC rates, according to TCC.
Meanwhile, TCC is still waiting for government’s confirmation on the proposed dates of opening the marketing season for of tobacco, which brings in about 60 percent of foreign exchange earnings. n