The much-hyped electronic tobacco auctioning got off to a false start yesterday due to technical glitches, forcing auction floors to revert to the manual system at the launch of the 2017 selling season.
Source: Tobacco electronic marketing in false start – NewsDay Zimbabwe March 16, 2017
BY TARISAI MANDIZHA
The e-marketing system was embraced to enhance transparency amid allegations buyers were colluding to offer low prices for the golden leaf.
After nearly an hour of trying, the authorities decided to revert to the old method, as some buyers were locked out of the system.
The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) last week said it supported the e-marketing system.
TIMB chief executive officer, Andrew Matibiri, told NewsDay that the glitches forced the authority to order all auction floors to use the manual system.
“We have ordered all the auction floors to use the traditional manual system for today (yesterday), but tomorrow [today] we will revert back to the e-marketing system,” he said.
“The technical fault which we encountered — we noticed that the problem was due to poor communication between the Boka Tobacco Auction Floor server and the main TIMB server and we are rectifying that.”
Agriculture minister Joseph Made told journalists at Boka Tobacco Auction Floors yesterday that the introduction of a new system was usually associated with challenges.
“When you introduce a new system you are likely to succeed or you have a systems failure temporarily. But that can only be explained by system specialists. The units are not linked with the TIMB and the gadgets that the buyers are using,” he said.
“So we had to revert to the manual system. I’m very happy with the starting price, the highest bale so far was at $4,60 and considering that this is still a lower quality (tobacco) we haven’t gotten yet to the prime quality. So it’s a very good start for the farmers using our traditional manual system.”
Made, however, said, a decision to continue with the e-marketing system lay with the TIMB.
“So we cannot on the basis of one side failure, discontinue,” he said.
The e-marketing system will also reduce the processing time for grower payments and eliminate illicit floor activities, such as ticket tampering.
The golden leaf has attracted interest among farmers due to its high returns, financially. This has seen the number of growers increasing by 16% to 82 699 this year from last year’s numbers.
Of the registered growers, 15 179 were new growers up from 9 103 recorded last year, according TIMB board chairperson Monica Chinamasa.
Three auction floors — Tobacco Sales Floor, Boka Tobacco Auction Floors and Premier Tobacco Auction Floor — have been licensed to auction the golden leaf.
The TIMB renewed licences for 22 “A” class buyers and 19 contractors for the marketing season.
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor John Mangudya said the tobacco industry mobilises $800 million a year.
“The producers of tobacco are indeed our heroes. They are important in this economy, the foreign currency they produce about $800 million a year and that amount is sufficient for all Zimbabweans,” Mangudya said.
Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe Huang Ping said Zimbabwe produced the best quality of tobacco in the world and was being received well in his country.
He said China was now the largest destination for Zimbabwean tobacco, receiving almost 70 million kg of tobacco a year.
Ping said Chinese firm, Tian Ze, had spent $100 million in interest-free loans on farmers for the 2016/2017 tobacco season and technical expertise.
The golden leaf is one of the country’s biggest foreign currency earners, raking nearly $1 billion in 2016.
Treasury has projected the 2017 tobacco output at 205 million kg up from 202 million kg attained last year.