The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) decided to bring the electronic marketing system after seeing the benefits it brought for buyers and growers of tobacco in other markets.
The electronic marketing system provides complete transparency as well as enabling growers to view the bidding process through electronic displays.
In places where the electronic marketing system is used, a bale is bought at an average time of four to five seconds.
The electronic marketing system is used to sell over 200 million kilogrammes of flue cured Virginia tobacco using hand-held terminals, hence the electronic marketing system can handle huge volumes.
The electronic marketing system eliminates ticket tampering which is done by unscrupulous people and has different forms.
Ticket tampering mainly affects contractors, buyers and ultimately the industry.
One way in which ticket tampering is done is pretending to be an official and simply changing prices for farmers using a green pen.
The figure one on the dollar is normally changed to a four by simply crossing the one with an L in the middle.
Another way in which tickets are tampered with is exchanging bale tickets.
A farmer can bring 30 kilogrammes of good quality tobacco that they know fetches in the range of $4,90 as well as 120kg of scrap that fetches around $0.10, a price stipulated as the minimum price tobacco can be bought at in the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Act.
Before the buying team passes the bale ticket with 120kg is placed on the good quality tobacco and that with 30kg is positioned on the inferior quality.
Instead of buying the 30kg at $4,90, buyers would be hoodwinked into buying the 120kg at $4, 90 and vice versa resulting in buyers losing out.
The electronic marketing system aims to remove manual aspects of processes that are easy to manipulate by the guileful without changing the processes, thereby bringing transparency.
Contrary to some people’s opinion, prices are not determined by the hand-held terminals but by buyers who buy tobacco on the basis on quality.
Besides providing transparency in the bidding process, the system enables growers to view the bidding process through televisions displayed at selling points.
Whilst the system faced teething problems and is currently somewhat slow as buyers are familiarising with it also eliminates the rigorous process of capturing information from bale tickets before payments can be made.
In the electronic marketing system buyers bid upwards from the starting price and if there is no bid, buyers wait for the starter to reduce the price before they can bid.
When buyers have entered their bids, the system notifies the winner and the buying team moves on to the next bale.
Classifying, arbitration, ticket checking and appealing processes remain the same, the only difference is there is the introduction of a technological device.
The electronic marketing system which is being introduced in stages hopes to deal with side marketing in the future, something which is mainly affecting contractors.
The vision for the electronic marketing innovation goes beyond the sale of tobacco at the floors using hand-held gadget as it, in the second phase includes marking fields where tobacco is grown using Geo Informatics System and tagging bales using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags which will bring an element of traceability right from the farm.
Side marketing, illegal sales and theft of tobacco are aspects that will also be handled with RFID tags.
The success of the electronic marketing system has benefits that far outweigh personal and selfish interests of individual as it will benefit the whole industry and ultimately the country.
As a result TIMB is committed to ensuring the electronic marketing system is a success.