By Duncan Mlanjira
Licensed tobacco markets for the 2020 season will go ahead starting from April 14 but with strict adherence of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) preventive measures.
In a statement, The Tobacco Commission’s Chief Executive Officer, Kayisi Sadala says this is in pursuant to the Presidential Directive that tobacco markets be opened in order to protect growers.
The market season will start with bookings for tobacco deliveries to the selling floors to be done through the Commission to start with Lilongwe selling floors on April 14 and for Chinkhoma, Limbe and Mzuzu for April 20.
The actual sales for Lilongwe selling floors shall commence from April 20, Chinkhoma April 22, Limbe April 27 and Mzuzu May 4.
On the preventive measures against spread of COVID-19 during the tobacco sales, the Commission says the tobacco industry stakeholders have been conducting several meetings and consulting health experts on how it can effectively run the markets “to ensure that the ultimate grower who invested in producing tobacco, sells the product and is economically empowered for the good of his/her health”.
The measures include restricting entry into AHL sales premises only to people who have critical tasks to perform and shall be subjected to washing hands with 0.05% chlorinated water at the gate and entrance to selling floor and wiping feet on chlorinated rug placed at the entrance.
Each individual shall undergo body temperature scanning and those found with body temperatures outside the recommended range shall be referred to AHL Clinic.
There shall also be strict adherence to having an ID; uniform; wearing of face masks; observance of social distance and the selling floors shall acclimate not more than 100 people.
Those that conclude their business shall be asked to leave immediately and that some sales shall be conducted in shifts with minimum of three sales per floor including auction sale.
Re-lay of tobacco bales will not be done to avoid congesting the floors and to compensate for the lost number of bales which would have been re-laid, Saturday contract sales will be conducted for willing tobacco buying companies.
“On Contract Sale, bales will be laid side by side to maximize floor space [and] on Auction Sale, bales will be laid at 0.60 meters to provide adequate social distance for buyers and selling team on the buying line.
“Grower shall not be allowed to witness the sales, instead, they will be represented by Grower Associations and for non-member growers by AHL Tobacco Sales.
“Growers will have to access sales information through AHL Tobacco Sales 252 platform,” says Sadala in the statement.