The Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) preliminary assessment has put the leaf’s output this year at 200 million kilogrammes (kg), way above 168.6 million kg produced last year.
TCC chief executive officer (TCC) Bruce Munthali told Business News on Monday the projected figure is based on the nursery assessment conducted by the tobacco regulatory body.
“Based on this preliminary assessment, we expect to produce 175 million kilogrammes of burley tobacco, 22 million kilogrammes of flue-cured tobacco and three million kilogrammes of dark-fired tobacco,” he said.
In 2012, the country’s tobacco industry witnessed one of the worst seasons in 18 years as output shrunk to as low as 79.8 million kg as growers felt discouraged over low prices that tobacco fetched in the preceding year.
Meanwhile, TCC has said the implementation of biometric growers’ registration system has halved the number of tobacco growers this year to 30 000 from 68 000 the year before.
Munthali said the system has also helped to flush out illegal tobacco growers across the country in this year’s growing season.
“The new system has seen the number of registered growers reducing from 68 000 to 30 000 because of the elimination of bogus tobacco growers who merely registered in the past to buy tobacco from genuine farmers,” he said.
Munthali said previously, TCC was using FoxPro system of registering growers which he said could not trace tobacco farm locations unlike the biometric system which captures fingerprints of tobacco growers.
He said other challenges that characterised the old registration system include multiple club memberships and that the location confirmation of most estates was not possible.
The tobacco regulatory body believes the switch to biometric registration will bring discipline, sanity and efficiency in the tobacco industry.
“In the past, people used to register two or three farms, but in essence that was the same grower and we could not know the locations of these farms. But with the introduction of biometric system, the situation has completely changed,” he said.
The biometric system of registering tobacco growers will also ensure that authentic tobacco farmers easily access and repay loans from financial institutions across the country.
The new system will also provide for traceability of genuine tobacco growers in the country, according to the TCC.
Tobacco industry experts have over the past year lamented that prior to biometric system, there was manual uploading of information from different centres of TCC.
TCC engaged Techno Brain to develop the new registration system which according to Munthali will help in easily generating market reports for current and previous tobacco seasons.
Tobacco is Malawi’s main foreign exchange earner accounting for more than half of the country’s export proceeds, employs millions of Malawians directly or indirectly and contributes 13 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP).