This year’s tobacco-selling season started in Lilongwe on a fair note Thursday, with the leaf attracting the highest price of $2.85 while the lowest price was seen at $0.95.
Speaking at the start of the sales, President Lazarus Chakwera said he was impressed with the start of the market but expressed hope that the buyers could do better by offering even better prices as the market progresses.
During the opening, a group of tobacco growers asked Chakwera to ensure that buyers do not lower the prices once the President left the auction floors.
The growers noted that buyers normally offer better prices when the President is around and shift to lower prices when the head of State leaves.
Chakwera expressed hope that growers would smile all the way to the bank compensate for their toil.
Chakwera reminded Malawians that tobacco farming was serious business, such that it must never be treated lightly or taken for granted by anyone.
“In fact, even if you are not involved in tobacco farming, but you live in this country, you are a beneficiary of tobacco farming. This is because tobacco farming is our biggest earner of forex, the very forex that all importers use to bring in goods from abroad for sale within Malawi.
“So, if you go to any shop and buy goods imported from outside Malawi using forex, you are a beneficiary of tobacco farming. You are also a beneficiary of tobacco farming if you enjoy any public service, because public services are paid for or subsidised by taxes, the bulk of which are paid from proceeds of tobacco sales and incomes of the millions who are employed in the industry,” Chakwera said.
Agriculture Minister Lobin Lowe said his ministry expected better prices this year because demand far outweighed supply.
According to Lowe, buyers were looking for 154 million kilogrammes (kg) of the green gold against a projected supply of 103 million kg.
Lowe was hopeful that this would result in buyers scrambling for the limited leaf on the market.
Speaking earlier, AHL Group Board Member Jolly Nkhonjera told Chakwera that the group had, for some years, been facing significant financial challenges due to dwindling revenues as a result of the drop in national tobacco volumes over the years and mismanagement of the group by previous management.