Minister of Agriculture Lobin Lowe has asked tobacco buyers to offer attractive prices to growers so that they do not leave the industry for the alternative soya beans.
He said this on Monday in Mzuzu when he presided over the opening of the Mzuzu Auction Floors which started with 1 598 bales.
The minister said soya beans are competing with tobacco on the market with its prices close to a dollar per kilogramme (kg).
“If this continues, then our tobacco growers will start growing soya beans,” said Lowe.
He has since called for a meeting with tobacco buyers to assess their prices.
Lowe also gave an ultimatum to his ministry’s technocrats to swiftly work on the review of the Tobacco Industry Act.
The highest leaf fetched $2.50 (about K2 000) per kg (kg) on the contract market and $2.10 (about K1 732) per kg on the auction market while the lowest fetched 95 cents (about K783) per kg.
One of the farmers from Mzimba, Noliti Chirwa, said her leaf did not fetch attractive prices at 95 cents and $1.65 (about K1 361) as the highest price.
While McPherson Munthali from Kacheche in Mzimba was all smiles as his tobacco fetched $2.10 per kg and $1.20 (about K990).
“This is far much better than last year when my highest leaf fetched $1.30 [about K1 000). But I am asking the buyers to increase the prices because the cost of production has gone up,” he said.
Tama Farmers Trust president Abel Kalima Banda said he was satisfied with how the market has started.
He, too, asked tobacco growers to stick to the industry and not leave it for soya beans.
This is the fourth auction floors to open after Lilongwe, Limbe and Chinkhoma in Kasungu last month.