Sales of Malawi’s major foreign exchange earner, tobacco, continue to dwindle, closing five weeks of trading at US$27.5 million against US$46.7 million the country earned from the crop during the same period last year.
Statistics sourced from the Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) show that about 21.4 million kilogrammes of tobacco had gone through the auction as at May 13th as compared to 30.9 million kilogrammes sold during the same time last year.
But TCC Chief Executive Officer, Albert Changaya, is optimistic that the figures will improve on account of improvements in the quality of tobacco now making its way to the floors.
“Farmers have now started bringing high quality leaf to the floors and the prices have slightly started picking. The rejection rate has also improved which shows that farmers are bringing to the market leaf which buyers want,” said Changaya.
Changaya further disclosed that overproduction has affected prices being offered for Burley tobacco but said other varieties such as Flue Cured and Northern Dark Fired tobacco met trade requirements.
“We over produced in terms of Burley thereby surpassing the buyers’ trade requirements, this is one factor that has contributed to low prices. While the case is different with the other varieties where production was in line with the trade requirements,” he said.
Farmers produced 175 million kilogrammes of Burley against a demand of 135 million kilogrammes.
This year’s tobacco sales have been marred by poor prices and disputes between farmers and buyers.
Fracas once erupted at Kanengo Auction Floors as buyers and farmers engaged in brawls over price disagreements. Buyers and farmers were involved in a scuffle over continued low tobacco prices.
Since the tobacco selling season was officially commissioned, farmers have been complaining of low prices which are as low as 82 cents.
Farmers and other stakeholders have described the low price issues as very unfortunate comparing to the obstacles farmers encounter when producing high quality tobacco.