There was tension yesterday at Mzuzu Floors as tobacco growers expressed dissatisfaction with the high rejection rate of bales under auction system which hit 65.4 percent.
As of lunch hour when The Nation visited the market, Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) division manager Paul Mwambugi said the rate could go higher as “there is another percentage of tobacco rejected due to defects which have not been established”.
He said figures for the number of tobacco bales rejected under contract system were not ready.
However, random checks by The Nation established that tobacco under the system was selling with minimal rejection rate, although prices offered did not satisfy some of the farmers.
This is in sharp contrast to the first day of the market which started on a good note when compared to Limbe, Lilongwe and Chinkhoma Floors as the leaf was on average fetching $1.60 with a 23 percent rejection rate.
AHL Group corporate affairs manager Mark Ndipita said: “The market started on a good note as compared to yesterday [Wednesday]. Today, the rejection rate has increased. This is a worrisome development as it has brought tension among stakeholders and farmers.”
Vickson Thera, a farmer from Madise in Mzimba, said the buyers are also rejecting tobacco which is of high quality without giving any reason.
Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama) president Reuben Maigwa remarked when President Peter Mutharika opened the market in Lilongwe earlier this month that buyers are buying “low quality tobacco” under auction at the expense of the leaf that looked more appealing to the eye.
Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda, speaking when he opened the Mzuzu market, expressed satisfaction that sales started well at the floor as compared to other floors, such as Lilongwe where farmers even disrupted the market due to poor prices being offered.
As we went to press, 785 bales under auction system were offered at the Mzuzu Floors, of which 65.4 percent were rejected for reasons known to the buyers. On the other hand, farmers under IPS offered 2 354 bales, of which authorities were yet to compute the rejection rate.