Tobacco, Malawi’s main foreign exchange earner, has fetched $3.1 million (about K1.2 billion) in the first week of this year’s marketing season.
The Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) said this represents a 153 percent rise compared to the $1.2 million (about K480 million) the leaf fetched during the same period last year.
In an interview on Sunday, TCC chief executive officer Dr. Bruce Munthali said the institution is so far encouraged and hoped the trend would be sustained for the rest of the marketing season.
“If we continue [like this], the market will be excellent,” he said.
Munthali said 2.4 million kilogrammes of tobacco was sold at an average price of $1.25 (K480) compared to 1.2 million kilogrammes of tobacco sold last year, representing 23 percent.
He said with volume of tobacco doubling this year, TCC expects increased earnings from the crop.
Malawi is estimated to have produced 156 million kilogrammes of tobacco this year compared to 78.9 million kg last year.
Munthali, however, said TCC is worried with crossborder tobacco trading which could significantly impact on the overall output this year. He urged all growers to desist from smuggling the leaf to neighbouring countries.
He reiterated that the weakening of the kwacha against international currencies, especially the dollar, will boost tobacco growers’ earnings as it did last year.
In random interviews Business Review conducted with growers at Lilongwe Auction Floors last week, farmers pleaded with tobacco merchants to pay above minimum prices they set with government.
“To be honest with you, the market has started on a good note. It is my prayer that we must not repeat what had happened last year when the market was characterised by many disruptions, especially at the beginning of the season in March,” said Ntamandeni Yolamu, a tobacco grower from Nambuma in Dowa.
In a separate interview on Monday, Central Region Tobacco Growers Association (CRTGA) president Ernest Chadzunda said they are also pleased with the conduct of the market so far.
He, however, reminded all growers to desist from mixing their tobacco with non-tobacco related materials (NTRMs), a situation which was rampant last year.