Malawi tobacco growers on Monday smiled from ear-to-ear at the onset of the 2013 tobacco marketing season as prices started on a good note buoyed by the weakening of the local unit, the kwacha.
Soon after the market was opened at around 8.30am, it was noticeable that the leaf fetched as high as $2.30 (about K880) per kg with the minimum price spotted by The Nation being around 90 cents (about K360) per kg.
Most tobacco growers interviewed inside the Lilongwe Auction Floors could not hide their excitement at the better prices and pleaded with tobacco merchants to sustain such prices for the rest of the marketing season.
“Frankly speaking, it is a good start as compared to the previous season when there were a lot of 50 cents marks on most bales.
“I have seen today that the minimum per kg offered is 90 cents for low quality tobacco. It is my hope that such a situation will continue,” said Mercy Kalebe, a tobacco grower from Nambuma in Dowa who offered four burley tobacco bales for auction on Monday.
Most of the tobacco during the first week of auction are the lower leaf or primmings which are of lower quality compared to the main leaf.
In a separate interview inside the floors, president for the Central Region Tobacco Growers Association (CRTGA), Ernest Chadzunda, also expressed satisfaction over the opening of the sales this year and said he hoped for the best during the entire marketing season.
Later in her address, President Joyce Banda, who officially opened the marketing season after touring the auction floors and sampling the quality of tobacco, described this year’s crop as of good quality and in large quantity which she said is almost double last year’s production.
She said there has been continuous dialogue between herself, government and all stakeholders in the tobacco industry resulting into a broader ownership of the reforms.
She cited the introduction of the Integrated Production System (IPS), ensuring harmony with tobacco buyers through contact and dialogue, the directive that farmers be paid their proceeds using exchange rates from commercial banks and not as determined by the Reserve Bank of Malawi, as some of the policy reforms prioritised in the tobacco sector.
On his part, Auction Holdings Limited (AHL) chairperson Jerry Jana recalled that last year’s tobacco market was characterised by mixed fortunes which he said affected the inflow of foreign currency into the country.