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Tobacco farmers unhappy with prices

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Some farmers in the Northern Region have complained against low prices buyers are offering at Mzuzu Auction Floors, three days after the market was officially opened.

On Wednesday, the farmers sold their leaf at a minimum price of $80 and maximum $220 for the auction market while farmers on contract basis were offered $260 as the highest price.

Though the prices are better than those that were during the opening of the market, the farmers are insisting that their tobacco is of high quality and should be sold at much better prices.

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Godfrey Nyirenda of Nkhumano Club from Hewe in Rumphi told The Daily Times that some farmers have grade C1L, which is the highest quality but that their product is being sold within the same price range as bottom leaf.

“We have some bales that have grade C1L, which is the best top grade and C2L, which is second, but to our surprise, the buyers have offered $220 per kilogramme. We feel this is not fair because such grades should be sold for $300 and above as minimum price.

“We invest a lot, starting from the nursery up to the time the leaf is brought to the action floors. Most farmers grew their tobacco using borrowed funds and it is critical that their crop should be sold at a profit. Tobacco farming is no longer a lucrative business, that is, why we are saying we want good prices for quality grade tobacco,” Nyirenda said.

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Peter Nyasulu from Linga Club said farmers on Monday were happy with the prices since it was bottom leaf and that they expected better prices for top leaf.

He said, it is preferable, if buyers offer a ‘no sale’ for bales that contain high grade tobacco.

But while agreeing with the farmers, Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) Chief Executive Officer, Kayisi Sadala, said he thinks some farmers mix-up the grades hence getting poor prices.

“The problem is that such prices might come because some farmers brought wet tobacco to the floors. Some mix grades and this obviously affects the prices. But, still, we sympathise with them and would be happy to see them getting good prices for high grade leaf,” Sadala said.

During the opening of the market, Minister of Irrigation and Water Development, Joseph Mwanamvekha, commended the buyers for not buying the leaf below the minimum price of $80.

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