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Tobacco sales short of import expectations

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This year’s tobacco earnings are only enough to cover imports for a month. Figures from Auction Holdings Limited (AHL) Group indicate that as at the close of tobacco sales on Friday, the country realised $212.9 million from 106,450,187 kilogrammes of tobacco, sold at an average price of $2 per kilogramme.

Malawi needs a total of $210 million per month to finance the import of various essential commodities such as fuel and drugs.

This means that the $212,900,374 from tobacco sales could only be enough to cater for 30.4 days of imports.

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Last year, the country realised $275.8 million from the sale of 194.7 kilogrammes of the green gold.

Ironically, the falling tobacco earnings come at a time when Malawi’s next biggest export, pigeon peas, is also facing serious price challenges following the imposition of import restrictions by India.

Economics Association of Malawi (Ecama) president, Henry Kachaje, said while the situation may appear worrying, Malawians need to appreciate that tobacco stopped being the country’s top foreign earner a long time ago.

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He said, currently, Malawi i s relying on int e rnationa l organisations, which are pumping a lot of dollars into the economy.

“But the question we need to ask ourselves is that, is this sustainable? We need to find sustainable commercial means of getting forex,” Kachaje said.

Malawi has for many years been searching for a single commodity which could replace tobacco as top forex earner.

However, decades of the search have yielded nothing, a development which has forced the country to still cling to the crop.

Kachaje blamed the current situation on lack of clear long-term interventions which could help Malawi to stop relying on tobacco.

“We need to have clear long-term strategies on export diversification,” Kachaje said.

Reserve Bank of Malawi spokesperson, Mbane Ngwira, said the contribution of the green gold has been declining over the years.

“The country has developed a basket of items which are bringing in forex into the country. Currently, we have about 3.4 months of import cover and we anticipate that we will still have above three months of import cover by the end of this year,” he said.

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