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High hopes from tobacco farmers

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By William Kumwembe:

SADALA – We want to protect the tobacco grower

As the 2019 tobacco selling season opens on Thursday in Lilongwe, growers are upbeat to reap the most from their sweat, banking on improved minimum buying prices this year.

Last week, the government approved the minimum prices as suggested by industry stakeholders.

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Tanzania President, John Magufuli and President Peter Mutharika are expected to open this year’s market at the Lilongwe Auction Floors on Thursday, according to a secular from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Corporation.

With two days before opening of the market, most farmers say they expect the best, poised by high quality leaf they have produced.

Tobacco grower s’ representative body, Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama), said its members are set for the season.

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Tama Chief Executive Officer, Felix Thole, said yesterday that the growers are satisfied with set market prices this year.

“Quality of the leaf is also very good and if the buyer is to pay above the minimum set prices, the farmers would fetch the most from the leaf this season,” Thole said.

He said, despite the reported overproduction of the leaf this season, farmers expect a competitive market.

Second round crop estimates showed that Malawi is expected to produce 205.5 million kilogrammes (kg) of tobacco this year.

The figure is, however, 35 percent higher than the 152 million kg tobacco-buying companies intend to buy this year.

The estimate is slightly lower than the earlier projection of 206.8 million kg, representing 0.68 percent deference.

Last year, the country sold 202 million kg of tobacco, realising $330 million.

Tobacco Control Commission Chief Executive Officer, Kaisi Sadala, Monday said all arrangements for the opening of the market were on course.

He urged tobacco growers to prepare their tobacco in line with guidelines on grading, conditioning and removing foreign materials in their bales to ensure that the tobacco fetches good prices on the market.

“There is no reason to fear, farmers should not panic. We are looking forward to yet another successful season this year,” Sadala said.

Chinkhoma Auction Floors is expected to be opened on April 29 while Limbe and Mzuzu markets would be opened on May 2 and 6, respectively. Kabwafu satellite floor would be opened on May 16.

The start of the tobacco-selling season is critical for Malawi as it is the time economic activities reach a peak.

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