The Tobacco Commission and Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama) Trust have condemned smuggling of the country’s tobacco, saying the vice could negatively affect this year’s earnings.
This follows revelations that the commission, in an operation with the Police, impounded a truck with 52 bales of tobacco which was trying to cross the border into Zambia through Mchinji.
TC spokesperson Telephorus Chigwenembe said the anti-cross border tobacco trade operation was conducted in Mkanda, Mchinji, where the truck was spotted transporting the leaf to Zambia.
“A driver and another man, presumed to be the owner of the leaf, have been arrested by Mchinji police. The two will be taken to court. As part of its work, the Tobacco Commission conducts border patrols to curb cross border trade of tobacco.
“This is detrimental to our economy because we already have produced lower volumes than demanded and we need as much foreign exchange as we can get and, therefore, smuggling tobacco will only reduce the amount we were going to get from the sale as a country,” Chigwenembe said.
Tama President Abiel Kalima Banda was quick to allege that perpetrators of the vice are not actual tobacco farmers but vendors who are not registered and dupe farmers by buying at low prices from the field.
“These people must face the long arm of the law. They must be given stiffer punishment to deter would-be offenders. We have produced 102 million kilogrammes (kg) of tobacco against a demand of 160 million kg and prices that we have seen on the market are the best we have seen in recent years. I don’t see the reason a farmer would look for foreign markets to sell their tobacco; these are vendors,” Banda said.
Meanwhile, the country has realised $67 million after selling 32.4 million kg of all types of tobacco at an average price of $2.07cents per kg after 10 weeks of sales.
The earnings are 47.7 percent lower than the $128.2 million realised during the same time last year while the volumes have dropped by 58 percent when compared to last year’s 78 million kg recorded at 10 weeks.
However, the average price has increased by 26 percent compared to last year’s $1.64 per kg and the rejection rate has dropped by 32 percentage points to 6 percent.