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Record low leaf sold this season

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Telephorous Chigwenembe

Malawi is likely to sale the lowest volume of tobacco in recent past, this season, as industry regulator, the Tobacco Commission (TC) announces that the market will close mid next month.

The TC closed Chinkhoma market in Kasungu on Wednesday and announced that Lilongwe and Limbe markets will be closed on August 5 while Mzuzu will close on August 12 2022.

As at July 15 2022, about 78.4 million kilogrammes (kg) of all types of tobacco had been sold, raking in about $166.4 million.

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The volumes are 22 million kg short of the anticipated production of 103 million kg this season.

However, tobacco production has been steadily on the decline in the country owing to combined effects of climate change, declining prices and the anti-smoking campaign championed by the World Health Organisation.

For example, in 2018 Malawi produced 197.2 million kg which fell to 165.67 million kg in 2019 and later to 114 million kg in 2020.

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Last year, production picked up to slightly 124 million kg.

In an interview Thursday, TC spokesperson Telephorus Chigwenembe said the authorities were still computing results of the third round and final crop production estimates.

“The 2022 marketing season will be 20 weeks long. Mzuzu will be the last to close because there are still significant volumes of tobacco flowing to the floors. The commission will wait up to some days close to the last day of sales at Mzuzu to have a clear picture of the attainment of the projected 100 million kilogrammes this season.

“This has been one of the best marketing seasons so far, especially in view of the prices offered by buyers. By the end of Week 16 (July 15), the average price was at $2.12,” Chigwenembe said.

In an earlier interview, President of the Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama) Trust Abiel Kalima Banda said production of the crop has been mainly affected low prices on the market which has forced farmers to venture into production of other crops in recent years.

A recent MwAPATA Institute working paper titled Trends in Tobacco Production and Prices in Malawi indicates that from 2004 to 2019, the share of Malawian crop farmers producing tobacco fell from 16 percent to five percent, and tobacco’s share of the total crop production value also declined sharply.

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