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Tobacco demand down 11 percent

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By Chimwemwe Mangazi:

SADALA—We need more buyers

Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) has said demand for tobacco— Malawi’s principal foreign exchange earner—among buying companies in Malawi has declined by 11 percent recorded at 152 million kilogrammes (kg), down from 171 million kg last year.

The figure is lower than that made in TCC’s announcement in October 2018 that buying companies might be interested in buying 174.5 million kg of the crop this year.

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Tobacco production has dropped by 1.4 percent at 166.8 million kg when compared to the 169.2 million kg produced last year.

TCC Chief Executive Officer, Kaisi Sadala, during a media conference yesterday, said the decline in demand could be stemming from increased volumes that the companies bought last year at 202 million kg, which was way higher than what they wanted.

“Remember that these are just estimates and the figures could continue to change— either go up or down—as the crop’s estimates from the first round show that 206.9 million kilogrammes of tobacco will be produced this year. However, the figures will be updated upon completion of the second round assessment starting from next week.

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“In view of these developments, the commission wishes to assure the farmers that the tobacco will be sold as the government has put in place enough measures to have the crop sold,” Sadala said.

Figures from the commission further show that the number of farmers who registered to produce the crop this year has increased to 52,432, representing a 24-percent change when compared to 42,207 farmers who registered last year.

Sadala attributed the increase in the number of the registered farmers to good prices which the crop fetched on the market last year.

He said Chinkhoma, Limbe, Kanengo and Mzuzu markets would be used for marketing the crop this season, in addition to a satellite market at Kabwafu in Mzimba.

The performance of tobacco on the market heightens calls for the country to diversify into other crops as the cash crop faces challenges due to fluctuating world prices and anti-tobacco smoking campaigns.

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