Agricultural Research and Extension Trust (Aret) chief executive officer Andy Khumbanyiwa says systemic grading still remains the secret to good tobacco prices at the auction floors.
Khumbanyiwa told Business News at Malovu in Mponela, Dowa during the opening of the grading courses Aret has organised to ensure that farmers get better prices for their crop during this year’s marketing season.
Last year, Aret organised 312 courses last year and following their success, the organisation plans to hold 359 courses this year in all the tobacco growing districts of the country.
“What has made us to upscale the training courses is the fact that for the first time in many years, farmers produced quality tobacco because they were mentored on how to separate good tobacco from bad tobacco.
“It is a shame that in this age, tobacco farmers should lose money because of poor grading,” said Khumbanyiwa.
He said before Aret commenced the training, most tobacco was rejected at the auction floors but the trend changed last year to the extent that there were a few bales that were rejected.
According to Khumbanyiwa, each training session costs K10 000 which means that when the training sessions end, Aret will have spent K3.5 million.
Minister of Agriculture and Food Security James Munthali concurred with Khumbanyiwa, saying proper grading of tobacco is critical if farmers are to get good prices at the market.
“What is important in any business is how you present your product at the market and if well graded, the buyers will have difficulties to reject the crop,” he said.
Munthali is optimistic that this year, the market will not face any disruptions and that buyers and farmers will find solutions whenever there are disagreements.
“As government, our plea to buyers is that they should adhere to the minimum prices and not reject any bale as a no sale,” he said.
This year, government has set minimum price for burley at $1.76 per kilogramme (kg) from last year’s $1.69 per kg while flue cured has been put at $2.65 per kg, up from last year’s $2.63 per kg.