Martin Kadzere Senior Business Reporter
THE Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board says it has engaged an Indian firm to automate the auction system as it moves towards reducing side marketing and illegal sales.
Public relations and communications manager Mr Isheunesu Moyo told The Herald Business that a memorandum of agreement had been signed between TIMB and the Indian firm.
Electronic auctioning is only done in India and Malawi while the rest of tobacco farming countries use the contract system. In Zimbabwe, 70 percent of tobacco is sold through auction.
“We have engaged an Indian company which set up a similar system used in the auctioning of tobacco in India,” said Mr Moyo.
“We have signed a memorandum of agreement and the technicians from the company are currently in Zimbabwe accessing what is required for the electronic marketing system to be rolled out.”
Zimbabwe, one of the major producers of tobacco in Africa has three main auction floors.
Electronically tagging individual farmers’ details on their bales will go far in reducing side-marketing, illegal sales and theft.
Electronic auctioning of tobacco will also reduce the processing time for grower payments and eliminates illicit floor activities, for example ticket tampering.
The e-marketing system will also ensure that the buying process is transparent and eliminates the possibility of connivance among buyers.
Another benefit to be derived from the e-marketing system is that tobacco buyers will receive real-time data as the auction process happens and will therefore be able to tally bales when they reach the dispatch section of the sales floor.
The TIMB, whose mandate of to promote orderly marketing of tobacco, will also be able to monitor the sale process and this on its own will make the whole process more transparent.
“There has been positive responses from stakeholders in the industry. This e-marketing system came as a result of wide consultation with industry stakeholders,” said Mr Moyo.
He said the total cost of the project would be available once the system is fully implemented.
Meanwhile, Mr Moyo said the TIMB and Agritex were currently ascertaining the crop size for this year but industry players have projected output could be in the region of between 170 million and 180 million kg.
“Once the crop assessment exercise is complete, we will inform the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development who will in turn release the crop estimates for the 2016 season,” he said.
Last year, Zimbabwe produced about 200 million kg, down from 216 million kg a year earlier.