Monday, June 17, 2013

Malawi's main export is tobacco. As an addict of the dreaded weed for many years I felt compelled to visit the place where it is auctioned, in huge quantities, for sale to the world. The place where this happens is at the "auction floors".

Actually there is only one "auction floor", very large and lined
with rows of bales of tobacco. Nearly all the tobacco up for auction is destined for the cigarette market. The odour within the building doesn't remind you in the least of cigarettes. There is a sweetness in the air that is difficult to place. There seem to be as many people milling about as there were bales of tobacco lined in military array.  We arrived at the auction floors without appointment, but within minutes, a guide was organized to take us around and explain how this market worked. Suffice it to say that is is very different to Chippenham Livestock Market! Only 10 people are involved, initially, in the selling of (on the day we visited) 10573 bales of tobacco. (Peak sales are 12500 bales). On the selling side there are 4 with 6 buyers. The auctioneers team walk along one side of the bales and the buyers walk on the other side. The first person on the auctioneers team calls the details of the bale to be auctioned, the auctioneer takes the bids of the buyers and knocks the bale down to the top bidder. The next man on the auctioneers team writes on the bale docket the details of price and buyer. Whilst he is doing this the auctioneers teams moves on to the next bale, by which time the 4th man on the auctioneers team is writing down the details of the latest sale. - phew - during this very short time the two groups - 4 auctioneers on one side and 6 buyers on the other side have not stopped walking and the auctioneer has not stopped talking. At the end of each row of bales the auctioneer is greeted with a large glass on water - he definitely deserved t!! So, now that the bales are sold, they have to be checked for quality and leaf type. More people. The bales are then, if there are no problems over quality and leaf type, sew up - another gang of workers - removed from the floors to the loading bays by sack truck - yet another gang. Finally they are loaded by fork lift truck onto lorries to be moved to the premises of the buyers. - yet more people. Once in the buyers sheds it is sorted and loaded on lorries which transport it to either Durban in South Africa or Beira in Mozambique for export to the worlds great cigarette makers.
I enjoyed this days outing as much as I used to enjoy cigarettes.

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