Tobacco sales opened on a good note at Limbe Auction Floors yesterday with buyers offering higher prices than last year.
On the contract market, the leaf fetched a maximum price of $2.50 (about K1 850) per kilogramme (kg) and 90 cents (about K666) minimum price.
This was slightly higher than a maximum of $2.20 (about K1 628) recorded on the first day last year.
On the auction market, the leaf was sold at a maximum of $1.30 per kg (about K962) with many bales fetching an average of $110 (about K814) per kg.
At this level, the prices are matching with what buyers have been offering at Lilongwe and Chinkhoma markets, which opened last week.
Minister of Agriculture and Food Security Francis Kasaila, who officially opened the market, said he was happy with the prices offered on the first day, saying they are within and above the set minimum prices for different tobacco grades.
He said: “The quality of tobacco that farmers have brought is better than last year.
“It is encouraging that farmers are committing to do better in the industry as this industry can improve if farmers follow advice.”
Kasaila said that if prices on the first day of the market are anything to go by, farmers will yield better returns this year.
Buyers at the floors had to practise a new concept of buying the leaf called Secret Bidding, which has been adopted as one way of ensuring that people are not getting close to each other in the auctioning of the green gold.
Tobacco Commission chief executive officer (CEO) Kayisi Sadala, while admitting that there are some lapses in the new trading system, said the commission was happy with the adherence to the measures put aside to contain the further spread of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19).
He said: “The commission and buyers will just have to sit and talk as it seemed in some cases buyers were not happy with this but at the end of it all, tobacco will surely be bought.”
National Association of Smallholder Farmers in Malawi (Nasfam) CEO Betty Chinyamunyamu said prices and the quality of tobacco were encouraging, adding that “growers are doing a good job making sure that they are producing good tobacco for sale”.
This year, international buyers are looking for 161 million kg of the green gold but, according to the second-round crop estimates, the country has produced about 155 million kg of the leaf.
Meanwhile, the country has already fetched about K2 billion through Lilongwe and Chinkhoma markets from the sale of at lease K1.8 million kg. n