The Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security has announced April 20, 2020 as a date for the opening of this year’s tobacco marketing season.
Announcing Covid-19 measures on Saturday, days after the country regisred four cases, president Peter Mutharika among others directed the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security to support AHL Group to normally operate tobacco markets.
Said Mutharika: “I am directing the Ministry of Agriculture to ensure that Auction Holdings Limited functions normally to operate the tobacco marketing season and protect tobacco farmers”.
In a written response, Ministry’s spokesperson Priscilla Mateyu said the Ministry in consultation with all stakeholders involved has put in place preventive and sales strategies as measures against Covid-19 to ensure that there is no further spread of the disease.
Some of the many measures that have been set include restricted entry to the floors, scanning of temperature for all those entering the floors, regular sanitisation through use of hand sanitizers and chlorinated water across the floors in strategic places.
“The market authorities will also be ensuring that all those in the floors have Personal Protective Equipment. Sales will also be made in shifts and that there will be no pre – laying or relays and that bale gaps will be revisited to ensure that there is enough space between bales,” said Mateyu.
According to the Ministry, sales will also be reduced to three per day such as two on contract and one on auction and that only grower representives will be allowed on the floors.
Earlier, Tobacco Commission chief executive officer said as a regulatory authority, they will comply with the Presidential directive to ensure that the market opens amid strict Covid-19 measures to protect farmers and stakeholders involved.
Tama Farmers Trust chief executive officer, Felix Thole whose institution represents farmers, expressed delight with news that markets will open soon saying delays were bringing anxiety among farmers who are looking forward to earn from their toil.
AHL Group public relations manager Teresa Ndanga in a written response said all preparations for the opening of the tobacco market were through and that Covid-19 measures are in place.