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Malawi eyes more tobacco

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Malawi has estimated to produce not in excess of 140 million kilogrammes of all types of tobacco next season, a figure which is slightly above last season’s international market demand.

During the 2020-21 season, buyers wanted 132 million kg of the leaf but output was shy by about 8.3 million kg as farmers were only able to produce 123.7 million kg of tobacco.

In the past five years, international market demand has ranged between 130 million kg and 140 million kg.

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But Malawi has been perpetually failing to meet the projected demand, except in rare instances.

Output has been affected by several factors including weather-related shocks while some farmers have been migrating to other cash crops while the market remained volatile due to the anti-smoking lobby by the World Health Organisation.

In an interview Monday, Tobacco Commission spokesperson Telephorous Chigwenembe said amid hitches farmers are facing this season, including rising cost fertiliser, the projected output might not be affected.

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“We are looking forward to our target. We have set our eyes on it and we are sure that it will be achieved,” Chigwenembe said.

Growers’ representative body, Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama)-Trust, feels, while the projection remains relatively high, meeting it would depend on systematic modalities stakeholders would deploy to attract farmers into production.

Tama-Trust President Abiel Kalima Banda said achieving the target was not a challenge as Malawi has met a 200 million kg target before.

He said meeting the target would help the country maintain buyers.

“For us to achieve this, however, we need assurance that, in the next marketing season, the farmers will be offered good prices because that is the motivation,” he said.

In the past season, the leaf raked in $197.1 million, up from $174.97 million earned a year before.

Average prices also increased to $1.59 per kg from $1.53 per kg in the 2020 season while the rejection rate dropped to average 11 percent at the peak of trading from 66 percent in 2020.

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