The 2014 tobacco marketing season opened yesterday with a ray of hope for growers as many of them smiled at the Lilongwe Auction Floors over better prices that characterised yesterday’s sale.
Before President Joyce Banda officially opened the marketing season, tobacco prices at the auction floors hit as high as $2.05 (K877.40) per kilogramme (kg) with most price tags showing prices above $1 (about K428) per kg.
Although some growers said the prices that tobacco fetched yesterday were lower than their expectations, generally the mood that engulfed the auction floors was cheery among most growers who granted The Nation random interviews.
Dziwitsani Faunteni, a tobacco grower from Traditional Authority (T/A) Nkukula in Lumbadzi, said he was generally impressed with how the market has opened this year, but asked buyers to ensure sustaining better prices.
In a separate interview, president for Central Region Tobacco Growers Association (CRTGA), Ernest Chadzunda, said he was pleased to observe good prices as high as $1.90 (about K813.20) per kg.
He said: “Basically, tobacco which comes early at the auction is that of bottom leaf and oftentimes is of poor quality, but as time progresses, the quality improves as well which attracts higher prices.”
On his part, Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) chief executive officer Bruce Munthali, in an interview, described yesterday’s marketing as stable, but said the challenge would be sustaining the stability in the conduct of the market for the rest of the season.
Later, in her address at Kanengo, the President said government expects good prices this year and said her government believes in dialogue with tobacco buyers for the smooth running of the market.
Said the President: “Government is concerned about the threats to our tobacco industry, but we cannot stop growing tobacco overnight. We will continue to grow tobacco in line with trade requirements.”
She also asked tobacco growers to desist from mixing their tobacco with non-tobacco-related material to realise better returns from their sweat.
Last year, Malawi earned $362 million from 168 million kg of tobacco.
Such was a significant improvement from $177 million earned from 79.8 million kg in 2012.
Directly, tobacco is employing 12 percent of Malawi’s population and also contributing 13 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP).