newly-licensed tobacco buyer ,Voedsel Tobacco Company from Zimbabwe is yet to start buying the leaf four weeks after the official opening of the 2020 marketing season, a visit to the Lilongwe Floors on Tuesday confirmed.
Tobacco Commission (TC) chief executive officer Kayisi Sadala confirmed in an interview on Wednesday that Voedsel delayed due to the lockdown in Zimbabwe, imposed on March 30, as a measure to contain the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
He said: “We have been assured that they will start buying our tobacco very soon.
“The issue is Covid-19 which has resulted in their country [Zimbabwe] implementing a lockdown, but I am actually writing them today on the same.”
Sadala said the firm will be buying burley and flue-cured tobacco on the auction market in the first year, but will expand to contract marketing in the second year.
He said that currently, there is low competition among tobacco buyers, a situation he said has contributed to the high rejection rate recorded at 64 percent at the Lilongwe Floors on Tuesday, above the recommended 20 percent.
Welcoming the development, Tama Farmers Trust chief executive officer Felix Thole said having more tobacco buying companies on the market induces competition which he said benefits tobacco growers.
Voedsel, a Zimbabwean wholly-indigenous company established in 2008, was unveiled by TC in March this year, bringing the number of tobacco buyers in the country to nine.
TC figures indicate that the 2020 tobacco trade requirement for the marketing season stands at 161.4 million kilogrammes (kg) against the licensed volume of 173.4 million kg.
Tobacco remains the country’s single largest foreign exchange earner, contributing about 11 percent to the national economy and the tobacco sector employs millions of Malawians directly and indirectly.