The second round of tobacco production estimates have shown a 12 percent drop against the demand from buyers this growing season.
This situation means that the marketing season will likely be shorter and farmers and some tobacco industry experts expect the prices to be better.
According to statistics from Tobacco Control Commission (TCC), first round tobacco estimates showed that the country will produce 149 million kilogrammes (kg) of all types of tobacco against the demand of 171 million kg.
The output drop was attributed to prolonged dry spells in the Southern Region and erratic rainfall in the Central and Northern regions in February and March.
Presenting the figures to the media in Lilongwe yesterday, TCC chief executive officer Kayisi Sadala and board chairperson Inkosi Ya Makhosi M’mbelwa V said despite the volumes being on the lower side they were optimistic that the marketing season will be smooth and without disruptions.
The two officials also announced that the marketing season at Kanengo Auction Floors in Lilongwe will start on April 9 and that tobacco deliveries started yesterday.
At Chinkhoma in Kasungu, it is expected that the market will open on April 11 while deliveries will commence on April 4.
In Mzuzu, the market opening is slated for April 23 and deliveries starting on April 9 whereas in Limbe sales will open on April 16 and deliveries started on March 26.
Said Sadala. ”The main drivers to the reduced estimates are erratic rainfall patterns and other effects of climate change. This made the leaf to be stressed and we expect the marketing season to be smooth because of forces of demand and supply.”
On what prices farmers should expect, Sadala said it was difficult to predict, but hoped they will be better.
Agriculture Research and Extension Trust (Aret) board chairperson Reuben Maigwa said in an interview that with less volumes on the market, farmers expect good prices on the market.
Despite a growing anti-smoking lobby championed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) through the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, tobacco remains Malawi’s major foreign exchange earner. It is estimated to account for at least 50 percent of foreign exchange earnings. n