Mzuzu Auction Floors officially opened Wednesday morning with farmers expressing dissatisfaction as well as disappointment over prices offered for their tobacco.
The development forced the sales to a halt for some minutes, only to resume later after discussions with the buyers.
President of Tobacco Association of Malawi (TAMA), Reuben Maigwa, speaking on behalf of tobacco farmers, said the latter were disappointed with the prices buyers were offering for their crop. He felt the quality of the leaf did not deserve the prices offered.
“Farmers here have quality tobacco unlike our friends in Limbe, Chinkhoma and Lilongwe but our friends sold at as high as US$1.80 (about K809) per kilogram unlike here,” he said.
Maigwa said the only tobacco that had fetched good price was the non grade category whose minimum price is 85 cents (K3.82/kg) but was sold for up to US$1.20 (about K540/kg) and US$1.30 (about K584/kg), but the rest got low prices compared to the grades.
He observed that the buyers were always sticking to the minimum prices set by government, but did not offer above the government minimum set price for any grade.
“If the buyers continue like this then the growers will not benefit, it is my plea that they adjust their prices [upwards] because fertilizer for tobacco was expensive, Super D was fetching MK23, 900 (per 25 kg bag).
“What we want is the buyers to buy above minimum price,” he said, observing that the buyers were taking advantage of the minimum price set by government by not offering anything more than that.
Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Dr Allan Chiyembekeza, who presided over the opening of the floors, concurred with Maigwa that the prices at Mzuzu Auction Floors were lower despite the good quality leaf at the market.
“Farmers here have [good] quality tobacco unlike in Limbe, Lilongwe and Chinkhoma but the prices being offered are low,” he said.
The minister then pleaded with the buyers to be fair with the farmers by offering better prices for their tobacco as farmers toil to produce the crop. He then assured the farmers he would engage the buyers in a discussion so that they can offer better prices.
However, Dr Chiyembekeza observed that the pricing of some tobacco might have been affected by the moisture it contained. He said there was need for farmers to properly grade and dry their tobacco to required standard so that buyers do not have excuses for offering low prices.
Speaking to Malawi News Agency on the sidelines of the sales, one of the farmers, Shemu Singini, from Traditional Authority (T.A.) Jalavikuwa in Mzimba said he was not impressed with the prices offered for his tobacco on the, fearing he would not get enough money to pay off his workers.
“I am not impressed with the price we are getting today on our tobacco, especially taking into consideration the work that is involved in producing our leaf. You can imagine some of the leaf fetching a price as low as US$1.20 per Kg. This is not good for us,” he complained.
Before the sales were halted, burley was selling between US$1. 30 (about K584/kg) and US$1.70 (about K764/kg).
President Peter Mutharika opened Lilongwe Auction Floors on 8th April, 2015. Mzuzu Auction floor was the last to open after Limbe in Blantyre and Chinkhoma in Kasungu.–ManaFollow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :