Malawi is expected to produce quality tobacco this year, thanks to the Integrated Production System (IPS) under which 80 percent of the crop was supported by buying companies through provision of fertiliser and other inputs.
Malawi’s Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) chief executive officer Dr. Bruce Munthali and Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama) chief executive officer Graham Kunimba told Business News on Monday in separate interviews that the industry also expects the output to be higher than that of last year which was less than 80 million kilogrammes, the worst in 18 years.
“Most of the crop this year has been supported by the banks and tobacco buying companies. The farmers have applied adequate amounts of fertiliser which will result in quality leaf,” said Munthali.
He, could, however, not project the expected output, saying that will be known when the first assessment, currently underway, is through.
Kunimba, who represents the interests of over 300 000 tobacco growers in Malawi, said the crop in the field is healthy and projected output to surpass 140 million kilogrammes.
“We think we will have a good season and the prices are also expected to be better looking at the quality of the crop,” he said.
Tobacco is Malawi’s main export crop and wires in more than half of the country’s export revenue, contributes 13 percent to the national economy and supports millions of Malawians directly and indirectly.
Last year, TCC indicated that they expected the crop’s output to hit 160 million kg, but Munthali said on Monday the final output may change once the first round of crop assessment is finalised.
He also said figures on how much how much tobacco buyers want from Malawi, according to international trade requirements, will have to be revised from the initial 150 million kg.
But Kunimba projected that the buyers will want about 160 million kg this year.
Commenting on the IPS—an initiative in which tobacco buyers combine farming and marketing strategies by dealing directly with farmers in producing the leaf—he said so far the system is progressing well.
“We have experienced no problem although in any system there are challenges here and there, but we hope we will overcome the challenges. This is a learning year and we will evaluate the system to sort out the challenges,” said Kunimba.
Munthali agreed with Kunimba’s observations, adding that the system is on track and TCC will soon conduct field days to assess how the crop is fairing under the system.