In a quest to manage number of people accessing auction floors during tobacco sales, the Tobacco Commission has limited contract sales to two buyers at a time and has introduced secret bidding on the auction market.
This is contained in a circular that the Commission sent to industry stakeholders which The Daily Times has seen.
This comes as the tobacco markets are set to open on Monday.
TC has also limited to only AHL Tobacco sales staff to be allowed on the selling floors, banned barrow runners whilst sales are in progress and tobacco samplers to leave the selling floors immediately after completion of their job.
For buying companies on auction sale, the regulator would permit only two buyers, one classifier, two checkers, one scanner and two bale sewers to the floors.
“In this case, there will be only one growers’ association representative on each sale at a time. Crop Inspectors are limited to two inspectors for all the sales on the Selling Floors,” reads the circular in part.
TC Chief Executive Officer, Kaisi Sadala, said the measures are enforced to ensure social distancing during the sales.
He said the measures put market operations at 60 percent than usual but it does not guarantee a prolonged marketing season.
“We expect this to increase competition because they will be bidding secretly so they will not know what the other buyer has offered and will give the farmer the highest price.
“These measures may or may not prolong the marketing season depending on the number of bales we will be pushing on the market but we believe we will increase the volumes on the contract market so it won’t take long,” Sadala said.
On minimum prices for tobacco this year Sadala said they were finalising the figures and may be released today.
Tobacco market operator, AHL Group said it is ready for the season and has since put in place systematic measures to mitigate possible spread of coronavirus.
In an earlier interview, AHL Group Public Relations Manager, Teresa Ndanga, said all is set for opening of the market.
Among other measures, Ndanga said the institution will ensure that the selling points would not be housing in excess of 100 people at a time and that they will be given limited timeframe to be within the auction floors.
In a separate interview Tobacco Association of Malawi Chief Executive Officer, Felix Thole, welcomed the amendments made.
“The bidding by individual buyer just on paper is going to be compared with the bid by the rest and only the highest bidder from the papers will be picked. This is similar to usual auction system that we used to know, because similarly the Auctioneer was giving the bale to the highest bidder,” Thole said.