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Tobacco market yet to impress

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Impact of the earlier opening of this year’s tobacco marketing season is yet to be felt as forex realised from the major export earner remains relatively lower than expected due to low traded volume.

The market opened earlier than normal this season to, among other reasons, help cushion the country from the forex woes it has been experiencing in the recent past.

Contrary to the expectation, revenue from the green gold remains way lower as flow of the leaf to the action floors has been equally slow.

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Recent figures from market operator, AHL Group, shows that, as at end of week four of trading last Friday, the country has only realised about $2.9 million from the sales of about 1.6 million kilogrammes (kg) of all times of tobacco.

Both the revenue and traded volume are way lower than the case in the first four weeks of trading last year.

During a similar period last season, the country had sold about 20 million kg of all types of tobacco, raking in about $34.1 million.

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But in an interview on Monday, AHL Group General Manager Graham Kunimba said there are factors that have disadvantaged this year’s market.

“We are not comparing like to like in this case because, last year, the market started on April 20 while this year, the market started on March 31. The comparison is not going to make sense. This year is a late season, tobacco supplies will probably start peaking up a few weeks from now. Maybe early May,” he said.

Meanwhile, Tobacco volumes reaching the market have started improving, with figures from the market regulator, Tobacco Commission (TC), showing that, at Lilongwe Auction Floors, tobacco inflow improved by more than 100 percent from 3,000 bales per trading day on the day it was opened to 6,479 as at last Friday.

The commission has since announced that the Chikhoma Auction Floors in Kasungu District and Mzuzu Auction Floors will open on Wednesday this week and on May 9, respectively.

Tobacco deliveries at the two floors started on Monday.

In an interview, TC spokesperson Telephorous Chigwenembe said all is set for the opening of the two floors.

“The commission is ready for the opening of the two floors. We have consulted all the stakeholders involved and we are satisfied with the readiness in Chinkhoma as well as Mzuzu,” he said.

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