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Dry spell threatens tobacco output

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Tobacco growers in the country fear for the output of this year’s crop following the persistent dry spell in most parts of the country, mainly in the southern and central regions, coupled with challenges faced by most farmers in accessing inputs.

Spot-checks conducted by The Daily Times in some fields show that tobacco leaves have already started wilting, signaling low moisture and the situation may worsen if the dry spell persists.

The crop has already been compromised in some parts of the country due to low rainfall pattern this far with the growers’ representative body, Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama) expressing pessimism that the country would reap the most from the green gold.

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In an interview, Tama president Reuben Maigwa predicted doom for the 2016/17 tobacco growing season.

“Most farmers have planted the crop, but due to low rainfall, there is compromised production. The main threat is that we may not produce sufficient crop which will further be marred by poor quality,” he said.

Maigwa said most farmers are also unable to buy fertiliser and other essential farm inputs as its cost continues to skyrocket.

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He said this would further frustrate the efforts of the farmers even if the rainfall pattern stabilizes.

“Much as we are set for the season, there will still going to be a dwindled output by the end of the day. We are, however, hoping that prices will be high as the supply will be low and demand will be high. This may work as a consolation to the few farmers that would reap out of their efforts,” said Maigwa.

In an earlier interview, executive director for economic think-thank, the Economics Association of Malawi (Ecama), Edward Chilima, forewarned that the country would see a continued drop in both output and revenue due to the challenges facing the sector.

“We do not see any changes in the agriculture sector, we are still inefficient and we cannot see a very good crop this year. In the tobacco industry, we haven’t seen any intervention so that it should be deferent next year,” said Chilima.

Earnings from the green gold dropped by 8 percent last year to US$337.3 million, about K189 billion from US$ 366.3 million, an equivalent of K205 billion earned during the previous season.

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