Tobacco merchants in the country have identified weaknesses in the way Malawi is conducting its tobacco crop estimates, citing loopholes in the registration system of growers as one key area which needs immediate redress.
The buyers outlined the weaknesses in Mangochi during a 2013 Tobacco Annual Industry Seminar designed to review the industry’s performance and forge a way forward.
Lloyd Barker, who is the agronomy manager at Limbe Leaf Tobacco Company Limited, made a presentation on behalf of other tobacco buyers on Malawi crop intelligence.He said while tobacco registration forms the basis and foundation of crop production information, there seems to be a lack of grower base intelligence linked to registration system which often leads to dual registrations.
“You see that currently, there is also a limitation in human and other resources. In addition, the reliance on information received by growers is not quantifiable,” he said.
He described crop intelligence-the exercise of finding out crop volumes and quality-as an important exercise as government needs to know how much volume of tobacco will be produced in order to plan properly.
Said Barker: “Merchants need to establish crop size in relation to demand.”
He explained that the impact of having wrong crop intelligence often results into impacting all budgets and planning and also ‘creates anxiety’ in the end.
He, also presented crop intelligence results for burley tobacco from 2005 to 2013 which showed that this year, Malawi had estimated to produce 138 million kilogrammes (kg) of burley but the outturn was a production of 144.7 million kg.
Barker informed participants that in 2012, burley tobacco was estimated at 134 million kg but later turned out that the country had only produced 65 million kg.
Commenting on the strength of the current crop intelligence methodology, Barker said it was good that the Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) questionnaire includes all critical areas and that personnel from all stakeholders in the industry have collective responsibility.
“There is need for a more coordinated approach between all stakeholders and a detailed calendar of events for planning purposes. We also need a special committee to be established by TCC and Ministry of Agriculture as well as merchants to carry out crop intelligence,” he suggested.
He also called for the need of grower base data to be made available before the beginning of the season.
The Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) chief executive officer Bruce Munthali told the seminar that this year, the country’s trade requirement was pegged at 150 million kg but the market sold 168 million kg.
Munthali said in 2014, tobacco buyers have demanded 180 million kg of tobacco from Malawi.