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Tama fears for tobacco growers decline

By Yohane Symon:

REMAINS MALAWI’S TOP EXPORT CROP—Tobacco

As the 2019 tobacco marketing season closes on September 20, Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama) fears that more farmers would not grow tobacco during the forthcoming season due to poor prices experienced this year.

Tobacco is Malawi’s principal foreign exchange earner but there have been calls to diversify in view of declining world prices due to anti-tobacco lobbies, among other reasons.

Tobacco Commission (TC) yesterday released a statement announcing that the 2019 season at Limbe, Chinkhoma and Mzuzu Auction floors closes on September 13, with last tobacco deliveries ending on September 11.

Lilongwe Auction Floor winds up business on September 20 and farmers have until September 18 to deliver their tobacco.

“Tobacco growers, transporters, buying companies and commercial graders are urged to make necessary bookings for tobacco deliveries to ensure smooth closure of the season,” TC statement reads.

Tama Chief Executive Officer, Felix Thole, said this year’s season has left tobacco growers in the country with a lot of scars resulting from poor prices.

Last season, Thole said the season closed with an average price of $1.67 per kilogramme for all types of tobacco, translating to $330 million.

This season, Thole said indications were that the industry would finish with an average price of $1.47 per kilogramme for all tobacco types.

Total earnings for this year are expected to drop to $211 million by the close of the season.

“Our assessment has shown that this year, the farmers have been greatly affected because of prices and other factors. We are afraid that most of our farmers might not grow tobacco this coming season because most of them did not make enough money to buy farm inputs,” Thole said.

He also blamed officials for overestimating this year’s tobacco production, which he said forced buyers to offer low prices.

“This year, it was estimated that we would have 207 million kilogrammes of tobacco, while on the ground the production is around 160 million kilogrammes.

“This incorrect production estimates also contributed to poor prices. We hope to find a better way of dealing with inaccurate estimates to avoid creating panic among buyers,” he said.

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