This year’s tobacco marketing season is set to open on April 20 starting with the Kanengo Auction Floors, the Ministry of Agriculture has confirmed.
The ministry’s spokesperson Gracian Lungu said this Tuesday in a phone interview.
“This year, the country is expecting to produce 122 million kilogrammes (kg) of all types of tobacco against the consolidated trade requirement of 132 million kg. This gives us a 10 million kg production deficit,” Lungu said.
Tobacco Commission (TC) Chief Executive Officer Joseph Chidanti Malunga confirmed the date in a separate interview, saying all is set for commencement of tobacco trading.
He said farmers will be allowed to witness market proceedings during the sales this season.
“We have put everything in place, all the measures will be followed, guided by the Ministry of Health, but I can confirm that it is true that the tobacco market for this year will be open on April 20,” Malunga said.
Tobacco growers umbrella body, Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama) Farmers Trust, says farmers are ready for the market.
Tama Trust Chief Executive Officer Nixon Lita said the growers are looking forward to opening of the market with high expectation of the possibility of improved prices compared to last season.
He, however, hinted on the need for stakeholders to deploy concerted efforts to ensure adherence to all Covid preventive measures.
“Knowing that this is a deadly disease, we would also want to have the farmers protected. So, let us wait until that stakeholders meeting is conducted,” Lita said.
Tobacco remains Malawi’s major export crop but its production has been on the decline in recent years resulting in reduced earnings from the crop.
Last year, the country sold 112.89 million kg of tobacco, realising $173.5 million (about K130 billion) from the green gold, according to statistics from the TC.
The earnings were 27 percent below the $237 million realised during the 2019 season.
Tobacco on the other hand, remains, by far, Malawi’s top foreign exchange earner, although its share has been falling sharply in the past 10 years in response to changes in prices and weather conditions, and most recently, due to the global anti-smoking campaign championed by the World Health Organisation.
In 2014, Malawi realised $361 million from sales of 192 million kg of all types of tobacco, which declined to $337 million in 2015. But output was static.
As at close of the 2018 marketing season, the country earned about $336 million against $212 million of 2017 after selling 106 million kg.
In 2019, the country sold 165.6 million kg of all types of tobacco, raking in $237 million.
The trend is a clear sign that future of tobacco production, just like the agriculture sector itself, remains mixed and murky.
Input of the sector to the national economy has skewed in recent years.