Growers’ dissatisfaction with tobacco marketing trends is pushing away some of them from growing the crop, Tama Farmers Trust has said.
Tama’s assertions come on the back of Tobacco Commission (TC) figures indicating that the number of growers growing tobacco during the 2020/21 season has decreased by 13 percent to 46 000 this year from 53 000 last season.
The decline is despite TC extending its registration exercise by another two weeks.
In a written response on Friday, Tama Farmers Trust chief executive officer Nixon Lita said that the reduction in grower licences could also be because of the new registration system, but added that increased operational costs for growers are becoming inevitable.
He said: “The reduction is mainly as a result of growers’ dissatisfaction with market trends, mainly prices and other hurdles they meet on the market such as high rejection rate.
“These other hurdles contribute to increased costs for the grower and, thus, reduced net income.”
To increase production and meet tonnage of the export market, Lita said there is need for the tobacco industry to look at solutions to problems growers are facing.
Despite the decline, the number of grower licences this year represent a two percent rise over the five-year period from 2016’s 45 000.
Agriculture policy development analyst Tamani Nkhono-Mvula said that most farmers have diversified away from tobacco because growing the leaf is becoming a frustrating venture for many smallholder farmers in recent years.
He said: “Prices for tobacco have been on the decline while the cost of production, even under integrated production system, has been on the increase, thereby reducing the profit margins for the farmers.
“I want to call upon government and other stakeholders to ensure that the other value chains, especially those farmers are diversifying to have been promoted.”
TC corporate planning and development manager Hellings Nasoni said in an interview on Friday that the decline is due to 2020 market developments, which have compelled growers switch to other crops.
Last season, Malawi raked in $174.97 million (about K131 billion) from tobacco, which was 27 percent below the $237 million (about K178 billion) realised the previous season.
This came against a 32 percent shrink in the final tobacco output to 114 million kilogrammes (kg) sold last year, a drop from 165 million kg sold in 2019.