The 2017/18 tobacco registration period has ended on a low note with fewer farmers registering to grow the commodity during the next season despite extending the registration period from September to October this year.
Figures from the Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) indicate that only 41 784 farmers have this year registered to grow tobacco with a total licensed quota of 162 663 million kilogramme (kg).
The registered quota is, however, below the 2018 buyer demand of 171 000 million kg.
As compared to the previous year, buyers had demanded 158 000 million kg, where 45 000 tobacco farmers were registered. However, TCC figures indicate that of the demand, only 106 million kg were sold in the previous season.
In an interview on Wednesday, TCC deputy chief executive officer David Luka described the situation as ideal, saying the system has registered only those that will grow the commodity unlike in the previous year, where some of the registered farmers never grew tobacco.
“This is what we are looking for; we want people to produce according to what the market wants. We are doing a good job allocating what the market wants. You wouldn’t expect one to one, this is not practical because we are dealing with people and there are so many factors affecting decisions that they would make.
“Under the prevailing situation, this reflects the situation on the ground where we want to make sure that everyone who has registered grows tobacco,” he said.
The development is coming at a time when tobacco farmers plans to diversify into other crops as a survival mechanism amid uncertainty on the crop’s future.
The move by Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama), an association of 200 000 farmers, comes amid declining revenue from the leaf over the past five years.
Tama chief executive officer Mathews Zulu said the diversification plan is in response to the demands from their members to grow other crops on contract to survive the turbulent times.
“In this new strategy, we want to go towards contract marketing so that farmers should be producing for the market and not producing before they identify the market,” he said.
During the 2015/16 season Malawi realised $276 million (K201.5 billion) from 195 million kg of tobacco while during the 2016-2017 season the country raked in $212 million (K154.8 billion) from 106 million kg of tobacco, according to the TCC.