Demand for the country’s tobacco this year has fallen by 12 percent to 158 million kilogrammes as per international trade requirements (kg) from 179.1 million kg because buyers overbought the leaf last year.
Last year, due to the crop’s overproduction buyers bought 192.7 million kg against the trade requirement of 179.1m kg.
Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) chief executive officer Albert Changaya, in an interview on Tuesday, said this means that buyers still have millions of kg in stock of non-committed tobacco.
“Since the buyers have stocks carried over from last year, and that coupled with the pressure from anti smoking lobbyists, we are not surprised that the figures they are looking for this year have gone down,” he said.
Without giving specific tobacco estimates since TCC officials have not completed collecting information on the ground, Changaya said real estimates will be known February end or early March.
Giving a breakdown of what the buyers want this year, he said they will buy 21.2 million kg of flue-cured tobacco compared to 19.6 million last year.
Buyers want 4.6 million kg of Northern Dark Fired tobacco (NDDF) this year against last year’s 3.15 million.
For burley, which is grown by a majority of smallholder farmers, buyers want 132 million kg this year compared to 154 million kg last year.
Changaya said with the dry spell that hit the country at the onset of the rainy season may have affected the crop’s output, but not in a big way.
He advised farmers to continue taking care of the crop—which wires in about 60 percent of foreign exchange earnings and contributes 13 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP).
Said Changaya: “We have not concluded tobacco estimates yet and it will be difficult for us to give out the right figures up until this month end. Personally, I believe the South will not do well, but in the Centre and North farmers will get good harvests.”
Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama) chief executive officer Graham Kunimba, in a separate interview, on Tuesday said it will be difficult to competently buyers’ demand for the this year’s crop in the absence of estimates.
“We have the figures as of how much the buyers are looking for, but it is difficult to comment without real estimates,” he said.
Kunimba said next year, tobacco farming will be managed better because of the new registration system being put in place by players in the industry.
Tama has since proposed stiffer penalties for tobacco growers who exceeded their quotas.
Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Allan Chiyembekeza last year expressed his disappointment over continued overproduction of tobacco, which he blamed on the industry’s failure to manage the crop size in line with international trade requirements.
It remains to be seen if the drop in buyers’ demand will result in prices increase. n