Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) has introduced a new billing system for the leaf’s transporters in which bales will be charged based on the weight and distance instead of the usual flat charge.
The tobacco regulatory body has settled for this method to protect local growers and help them realise more from the country’s main foreign exchange earner, according to TCC chief executive officer Albert Changaya.
He explained in an interview in Lilongwe on Monday the billing system will not only benefit growers, but also improve the quality of tobacco and reduce incidences of mixing different types of tobacco in one bale.
“Over the years, each bale could be charged, say K2 000 and this led to farmers mixing various tobacco types just to get a certain weight.
“Other growers would mix their tobacco with non-tobacco related materials [NTRM], a thing that has over the years brought mistrust between growers and buyers,” he said.
TCC has also stopped the practice of transporters demanding cash upfront from farmers as one way of protecting them.
The new billing system comes a few days before the tobacco marketing season starts and TCC hopes farmers will be the ultimate beneficiaries.
Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama) chief executive officer Graham Kunimba commended TCC for abolishing the flat charge system, saying growers were paying more than they were supposed to.
“What this means is that growers will be paying what they are supposed to and eventually they will gain. If a grower hires a 30-tonne truck, he/she will pay for the 30-tonne truck unlike before when each bale could command the same transport charge,” he said.
The move has brought a sigh of relief to growers who alleged that some unscrupulous transporters were demanding money upfront and falsify loading zones at the auction floors to get a big cut after the sales.
Abel Kumwenda, an official of Phindu Tobacco Growers Association, which has about 1 500 growers, said the new billing system is good as they will no longer be mixing tobacco of different grades.
“This has been a long-standing issue and what TCC has done has been welcomed by all growers,” he said.
According to the first round crop estimate, Malawi is projected to produce 199 million kg of tobacco against international trade requirements of 158 million kg. n