Some tobacco farmers have told The Business Times that they have abandoned growing the crop this year because they were let down by poor prices and high rejection rates last season.
One of the tobacco growers in Dowa, Benamu Kanyenje, said a lot of farmers in the area have gone on crop holiday and only a few have grown tobacco.
However, the Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) has said it cannot make projections regarding tobacco growers for this season as the commission has not finalised registration of growers.
But Kanyenje said the majority of farmers have not grown the green gold.
He said this year he has only grown half a hector, departing from his usual five hectares.
“The majority of the farmers in Dowa where I stay have not grown tobacco this season. I have only grown half hector. This year there will not be many farmers at the auction floors because we had been disappointed with the prices,” he said.
TCC Divisional Manager for the Central Region, Richard Chinthuzi, said it is difficult for his organization to make comparisons with last year’s statistics because this year the commission is registering individual farmers yet last year the commission was making registrations per club.
Chinthunzi further said every year some growers pull out from growing the crop and this year the numbers of growers going on crop holiday might be on the higher side because of last year’s low prices.
“Every year, there are some growers who don’t come to register for their own reasons. The numbers this year might be on the higher side because of what they experienced on the market. People did not have enough money to go back to the farms,” he said.
According to Chinthuzi, so far TCC has issued 31,076 licenses representing 104.21 million kilograms of tobacco against a target of 45 000 licenses or 151.1 million kilograms required by buyers.
Last year 38,018 growers registered but out of them 32,000,231 farmers sold their tobacco.
Last year at the close of the market, the green gold attracted an average price of $1.42 per kilogram while in 2015 the leaf was sold at an average price of $1.75 per kilogramme.
Last year the country realized $276 million as compared to $337 million earned in 2015.