Tobacco growers in the country have little hope that the auction system of selling the crop will get back to business as usual after burley and flue-cured rejection rate hit an all time high of 99 percent this week.
As buyers press for high quality tobacco produced on their watch under the Integrated Production System (IPS), the more individual growers feel rejected by the system.
According to a market update released by AHL Group on Wednesday, auction sale rejection rates for Limbe Floors stood at 98.6 percent, 82.5 percent at Mzuzu Floors, 76.6 percent at Chinkhoma and 74.8 percent at Lilongwe Floors.
In random interviews, growers expressed doubt if the situation will improve.
They said while some growers are being forced to go back home, others have just decided to ‘camp’ at the AHL buildings in Limbe to wait until their leaf is sold.
One of the growers, Laudoni Nyaka, who is based in Zomba said he is still waiting to have his 33 bales of burley brought to the auction on June 1 is sold.
“I came again on June 7, to check if buyers have bought my tobacco but no, so I will just stay in Blantyre until my crop is sold.
“I have been surviving on borrowed money from fellow growers. Together we contribute a little something to buy food. In some cases.
“I have to sell my ducks to have some money. Yet I have a crop rotting in the warehouses which is supposed to give me money,” Nyaka said.
Goodson Mateyu, a grower from Zomba said his tobacco has been rejected 11 times on the auction system.
“My worry now is that my tobacco is losing quality and by the time, a buyer will be interested in the crop, it will be of poor quality and will fetch low prices.
I wish they can just buy my crop now, even at very unreasonable price, I would be happy to take my money and go home to my family,” said Mateyu.
AHL Group corporate affairs manager Mark Ndipita said it is disappointing that in week 10, auction tobacco continues getting a raw deal with a high rejection rate.
“The picture we are getting for auction tobacco is still gloomy. Farmers are still pleading with buyers to continue buying tobacco but still the rejection rate is very high and in some auction markets, the sales are being suspended unlike in the contract market.
“However, we hope that during meetings with buyers in the coming weeks,we will hear the concerns being raised by the farmers,” said Ndipita.
He said he hoped that together the stakeholders led by Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) will find a solution so that auction tobacco uptake is higher and rejection rates are lower at all auction floors.
TCC Chief executive officer on Tuesday Albert Changaya attributed the high rejection rate to overproduction.
This year, demand for tobacco is pegged at 132 million kilogrammes (kg), but growers in the country have produced in excess of 175 kg, according to TCC.
As a result of overproduction, AHL Group says there is unexpected drop in earnings for auction flue-cured tobacco this year, as average prices trail at $1.92 (K1 372) per kg as opposed to $2.64 (K1 887) the same period last year. n