AHL Group has unveiled plans to open four new rural tobacco markets in the country’s four regions as part of the company’s efforts to bring markets closer to the growers.
In an interview yesterday, AHL Group chief executive officer Evans Matabwa said the company has several strategic projects aimed at improving the tobacco marketing.
He was responding to a call made by Traditional Authority (T/A) Mwalufita of Chitipa who recently asked AHL Group to consider opening a rural market in the district so that tobacco is auctioned right there.
Matabwa said the company already has plans to construct a satellite market at Lufita.
He said: “As a group, we acknowledge the strategic importance of this area when it comes to agriculture. We have requested government to consider reviewing the tobacco selling commission to enable us proceed on this and three other similar projects in the Central, Eastern and Southern regions of the country.
“Our target is to bring the markets closer to the growers to mitigate the challenges associated with marketing.”
AHL Group operates a rural market at Kabwafu in Mzimba and a tobacco receiving depot at Lufita in Chitipa in addition to the main auction floors in Mzuzu, Chinkhoma in Kasungu, Kanengo in Lilongwe and Limbe in Blantyre.
The Lufita depot was opened in July 2010 to help tobacco growers from the area who faced challenges to take their leaf to Mzuzu Floors, a distance of more than 300 kilometres.
In an earlier interview, Mwalufita said many people are still growing and thriving on tobacco in the district because of the depot.
“Tobacco production could have died here if this depot was not opened because most transporters ignored this area due to bad condition of the road and the long distance to Mzuzu,” he said.
“It took too long for our tobacco to be offloaded and sold. Some bales could be lost on the way,” he said.
AHL Group Lufita depot supervisor Aaron Gondwe said the inflow of bales at the depot is high and that the company has a good relationship with growers, traditional leaders and members of the community.
He said although the depot receives auction and contract tobacco, most growers sell under the traditional auction market.
Tobacco is Malawi’s main cash crop, contributing about 60 percent of foreign exchange earnings and 13 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP).