Tobacco industry players have blamed growers for fuelling corruption in the leaf’s marketing chain.
Ironically, growers have been crying foul for some time regarding corruption in the industry,.
However, some have confessed that they palm oil personnel in the whole chain from transporters to auction floor officials to ensure quick sales of their leaf.
During recent annual area meetings Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama) hosted last week nationwide with players in the industry, all the blame was heaped on growers as the perpetrators of the vice.
True to the assertions, some smallholder growers said in interviews they are mostly desperate to beat the industry’s long and rigorous system; hence, bribing some officials.
One of the long-time growers from Mpherembe in Mzimba revealed in an interview that he gives about K10 000 (about $14) per booking to a transporter.
This claim was corroborated by another smallholder grower from Embangweni in the same district.
“After giving the transporters K10 000 for booking, we then give about K1 000 to a labourer handling the crop and we also give about K20 000 or more to some officials for the leaf to fetch a good price on the market,” said a grower who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals.
He, however, said in most cases, the growers end up being duped as there are times their leaf is rejected even after bribing the officers.
Speaking at one of the meetings in Mzuzu on Friday, AHL Group manager for Northern Region Joseph Kawinga said rampant corruption has now forced the tobacco auctioneer to install closed circuit TV (CCTV) cameras at the floors to monitor every activity.
“Corruption at the floors is a thorn in AHL Group’s flesh. We have tried tooth and nail to eliminate it, but it is failing to die and it taints our name,” he said.
Kawinga said while booking is free at the floors, growers pay K1 000 (about $1.3) or K500 (about $0.6) per bale to transporters for booking.
He encouraged growers to report using the tipoff anonymous lines.
Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) manager for Northern Region Paul Mwambagi said the regulatory body is aware of corruption at the floors during deliveries.
“We are aware of it, but farmers do not want to report to authorities,” he said.
In an interview, one of the transporters said farmers tempt transporters by asking them to do whatever they can for their tobacco to beat the long queues.
“The transporters are then forced to bribe the officials for the sake of pleasing the grower,” said one transporter.
Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Allan Chiyembekeza is on record to have hinted about ‘chammanja’ a bribe that growers give to transporters for their crop to be ferried to the floors.
He said last year that corruption could be one of the reasons growers fail to service their loans as the little money realised from sales is also offered in bribes. n