A second-round of tobacco production estimates show that Malawi’s 2020 tobacco production has shrunk by 6.6 percent to 154.7 million kilogrammes (kgs) against the 165.6 million kg traded last year.
The estimates also reveal that at 154.7 million kg, the volume is 4.4 percent below the buyers’ demand for this year, estimated at 161.4 million kg.
Tobacco Commission (TC), in collaboration with other key stakeholders within the tobacco industry, undertook the assessment to project the expected tobacco volumes to be traded during the 2020 marketing season.
TC statistics show that burley tobacco is estimated at 128 million kg, against a volume of 138 million kg which was traded last season and that represents an 8 percent decline.
There is a marginal decline in output for flue-cured tobacco estimated at 22.4 million kg against 22.7 million kg demanded.
TC chief executive officer Kayisi Sadala yesterday attributed the decline to excessive rainfall that led to leaching of crop nutrients thereby negatively impacting the crop’s potential and yields.
“Then there has also been a decrease in the area under tobacco cultivation due to grower withdraw influenced by low prices experienced in the 2019 marketing season,” he said.
But Sadala said the drop in aggregate output could be a blessing in disguise as it could trigger competitive pricing as companies will outcompete each other to satisfy their requirements.
He said regionally, the outlook shows expected reduction in production from neighbouring Zambia, Tanzania, Mozambique and Zimbabwe arising from erratic rainfall followed by drought experienced at critical vegetative stage of the crop.
He added: “Globally, major tobacco producing countries, namely Brazil, India, China, East Asia region project a decline arising from unfavourable weather effects.”
Tama Farmers Trust chief executive officer Felix Thole earlier prayed for moderate rainfall as the leaf develops to avoid the leaching of nutrients that affect leaf quality.
He said excessive rainfall waters down important nutrients that helps to produce healthy and high standard leaf desirable for the market.
Tobacco crop, Malawi’s mainstay, continues to face a diminishing global demand due to anti-smoking campaigns championed by the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC).
The crop is also facing an export restriction into the United States of America (USA) under what is called a World Release Order (WRO) on Malawi, imposed on 1 November, 2019.
Under the WRO, shipments of tobacco exports from Malawi to the USA are first detained at the port of entry before being subjected to heavy scrutiny by authorities to allow importers of the leaf prove to the US authorities that the tobacco is not produced using child or forced labour which is prohibited under US law.