Low tobacco production to worsen Malawi economic crisis

With Malawi’s tobacco marketing season set to open from early next month, the industry’s influential body, Tobacco Association of Malawi  (Tama) has voiced its concern that failure to grow more tobacco this
year would lead to satisfying even half of the demand from leaf buyers.

The body said this would further complicate Malawi’s already ailing economy as it means fragile foreign exchange reserves would not be nourished back to healthy levels.

Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) operations manager Fred Kamvanzina clearly put it that buyers want to have 160 million kilogrammes of burley tobacco, 15 million kilogrammes of flue cured tobacco and about
4 million kilograms of dark fired leaf.

Malawi's gold leaf: President Bingu wa Mutharika and Agriculture Minister Prof Peter Mwanza at auction floors

But estimates show that Malawi has this year only managed to grow as 80 million kilograms of the leaf.

This is a huge drop from 237 million kilograms of tobacco harvested last year.

Although farmers are optimistic that there may be better prices this year, Tama president Reuben Maigwa said many farmers had been discouraged from growing the crop because of poor prices and leaf rejections at the auction floors last year.

He said the little tobacco in the fields is scary as it means the leaf would not earn more as expected every year.

“Poor early rains have also affected some farmers whose tobacco seedlings died in the fields due to some dry spell after being transplanted from nurseries and this has reduced harvest.

“We all know that tobacco is number one forex earner. This will definitely affect the economy,” said Maigwa.

Last year, farmers overproduced burley tobacco by about 47 million kilograms.

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