Tobacco rejection rate at Chinkhoma Floors in Kasungu on Monday hit 77 percent on a day President Peter Mutharika paid a surprise visit to the market.
In fulfilling his words made at the official opening of the tobacco sales in April this year that he will be making surprise visits to the country’s floors, Mutharika astonished officials at Chinkhoma Floors when he branched off to the market on his way from Kasungu where he had attended International Albinism Awareness Day commemorations.
Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) chief executive officer Albert Changaya led Mutharika and his delegation which included Vice-President Saulos Chilima and some government officials to the floors where he appreciated the quality of the leaf, prices on offer and the cause of high rejection rate.
Changaya said while the rejection rate on auction tobacco was at 77.2 percent, the rejection on contract otherwise known as Integrated Production System (IPS) was at 0.5 percent.
He attributed the high rejection rate to over production of the leaf this year, which surpassed international trade requirements.
Changaya said the demand this year was pegged at 132 million kilogrammes (kg) but growers produced in excess of 175 million kg, adding that buyers are not compelled to buy all the leaf.
He said: “Mostly it is about demand and supply. Buyers do not see why they should be forced to buy more than what they have planned to buy.
“As a country, we have overproduced because buyers delayed giving us figures of how much tobacco they would be interested to buy this season, so we could not produce the exact amount of tobacco they were looking for.”
During Mutharika’s visit, tobacco on auction was being bought at the highest price of $1.90 (about K1 300) per kg, while the lowest was $0.80 (K576) per kg.
On the other hand, tobacco on contract was bought at the highest price of $2.60 (K1 800) per kg and the lowest at $0.80.
Mutharika was told that when tobacco has been rejected, it is bought only after it has been sent for regrading, but said during that process, the leaf loses value.
He was also told that in rare instances when tobacco has to be carried forward to the following selling season, the grower needs to spray the leaf with chemicals so that it is not attacked by tobacco beetle, which is destructive.
“This can be another challenge for farmers, but it is rare because mostly tobacco is sold within a particular season,” said Changaya.
TCC figures show that at end of week eight, 44.59 million kg of tobacco has been sold at an average price of $1.41 (K1 015) per kg, $63 million (K45 billion).
During the same period last year, 61 million kg of the leaf was sold at $1.62 (K1 162) per kg, raking in $99 million (K71 billion). n