Enough is enough! That is the message tobacco growers especially those selling their leaf under contract farming sent to tobacco buyers when they disrupted markets at Chinkhoma and Kanengo Auction Floors due to the increase in rejected rates and poor prices offered by buyers.
As of Thursday, the rejection rate of tobacco at Kanengo Auction Floors in Lilongwe was over 70 percent and by yesterdaya morning there was no change in the buying trend of the leaf being sold under auction a development which forced farmers to disrupt the sales.
The situation was the same at Chinkhoma in Kasungu where Tobacco Control Commission board chair Inkosi Mbelwa V was opening the market. Growers stopped buyers from proceeding with the buying process soon after the opening ceremony.
“They will not buy our tobacco at prices below $0.80 about (K552). It is better we take it home so that we bring it back when the prices are better,” an irate farmer who identified himself as Tobias told Weekend Nation.
It took the intervention of Auction Holdings Limited Group general manager for tobacco sales Moses Yakobe and Chinkhoma Auction Floors manager Stanely Anselimo to convince the growers to select a leader among them to discuss the issue with relevant officials on the issue of prices.
In an interview later, Yakobe said the tobacco market this year has started on a very bad note compared to last year when the minimum price was $1.32 per kg. The average minimum price this year is $98 cents.
“What we have seen is that buyers are offering low prices and in some instances, good tobacco is being referred as No Sale. The communication that is there is nonverbal and that is why TCC has called for a stakeholders meeting to iron out the challenges that have beset this year’s market,” said Yakobe.
According to Yakobe, the buyers might be reluctant to buy quality leaf under auction because this is not the time the floors receive such leaf.
“Maybe they are not buying because they think the leaf belongs to middlemen,” said Yakobe.
TCC chief executive officer Albert Changaya in a separate interview bemoaned the poor prices as well as the high rejection rates saying this is very bad for farmers.
“We have summoned the buyers to a meeting today because we feel maybe they are playing games since they know that burley tobacco has been overproduced. As TCC we are worried because farmers spend a lot of money to produce quality tobacco and it is frustrating for it to be rejected. The buyers have given their reasons for rejecting the crop and we need to hear them out,” said Changaya.
In his opening remarks, Inkosi M’mbelwa V advised growers not to disrupt markets whenever they have got grievances but to take them to TCC officials for solutions. n