Tobacco farmers have protested the high rejection rate of tobacco and want Tobacco Commission (TC) to allow them access to the floors against existing restrictions imposed in the face of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
TC barred growers from witnessing the sales to avoid overcrowding at the auction to prevent the spread of Covid-19. But the farmers argue that their absence has helped worsen rejection rates now hovering at between 70 and 80 percent.
The recommended rejection rate, according to TC, is between 15 to 20 percent and this year’s 80 percent is way beyond 30 percent rejection rate registered on the auction market during the same period last year.
In an interview on Monday, Tama Farmers Trust chief executive officer Felix Thole, while confirming the high rejection rates in all the four markets of Limbe, Lilongwe, Chinkhoma in Kasungu and Mzuzu, said farmers feel they are not being well represented.
He said: “Corporate and general farmers had a meeting with TC on the need to start witnessing tobacco sales at the auction. The reason being unsatisfactory progress of the market that is largely faced by high rejection rate shooting up to 80 percent on auction market.
“Farmers are furious
as they feel they are not being well represented by grower associations because they view the high rejection rate as a deliberate ploy to frustrate them.”
Thole said the development may impact pricing and result in delayed progress of the auction market which is facing a higher rejection rate than the contract market as the rejected bales will have to be re-offered for sale.
TC chief executive officer Kayisi Sadala said discussions are underway on how best to handle the situation amid.
He said: “In view of this development, the commission is consulting industry stakeholders and will soon make pronouncement, on the matter.
“So far, the industry has adhered to Covid-19 measures put in place. As TC, we are satisfied with progress so far. No case has been registered so far during the marketing.”
Over the four weeks period, the country has sold 17.9 million kilogrammes (kg) of tobacco, 19 percent lower than in 2019, raking in $27.5 million (about K20.3 billion).
On average, the leaf is fetching $1.53 per kg (about K1 132), which is 13 percent higher than what was offered the previous season