Malawi opens tobacco market: JB impressed with prices

President Joyce Banda has expressed optimism that 2014 will be the year when farmers will earn decent incomes from their labour, saying she is impressed with the maximum prices of tobacco at the opening of the 2014 market season on Monday.

Banda expressed hope that the 2014 marketing season will be one of the best in the history of Malawi. Tobacco is Malawi’s main export commodity.

Speaking after the opening of the 2014 tobacco market season at Kanengo in Lilongwe, President Banda also hailed farmers for producing the leaf of very good quality; a development she said would minimize cases of sending tobacco back for re-grading.

“I have toured the floors and four categories of tobacco among them; the contract farming category and that of ordinary farmers,” explained the President.

“I was impressed to note that the maximum price for tobacco in the contract farming category was as high as 2 dollars 90 cents and in the other category the maximum price was 2 dollars 5 cents.

Auction Holdings CEO Evans Matabwa conducts JB through the tobacco floors
Auction Holdings CEO Evans Matabwa conducts JB through the tobacco floors

“For a start, this is impressive; I don’t know what will happen as we go on but I expect the prices to be that good throughout the season.”

The President appealed to tobacco buyers to consider offering better prices throughout the season so that the farmers, who had toiled to produce tobacco of good quality as the lot she saw at the floors, should appreciate the gains for their toiling.

Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) chief executive officer Bruce Munthali  said the commission has estimated that Malawi will produce 193 million kilograms of tobacco this year with 169 million being burley tobacco, 21 million flue cured tobacco and three million being dark fired tobacco variety.

Munthali also boasts that TCC has employed adequate tobacco classifiers as well as arbitrators to help facilitating the allocation of tobacco grades and mediate price disputes between growers and buyers, respectively.

Earlier during the official opening of the 2014 market season, Chairperson for TCC, Crown Prince Mmbelwa V, assured President Banda that under his chairmanship, TCC would work hard to ensure a smooth tobacco season.

Mmbelwa V noted that the President’s initiatives in support of tobacco farmers were improving the farmers’ livelihoods citing the directive that farmers should be given an option of receiving their tobacco sales earnings in US dollars at a commercial bank of their choice as one example.

“Your government also approved the Integrated Production System model of tobacco production and marketing in Malawi…the system has helped the tobacco growers in terms of better quality leaf that can fetch better prices on the floor,” explained the TCC Chair.

He also said TCC and its stakeholders were working towards a decentralized rural tobacco marketing system which the President advocated for to ensure that transport costs for the farmers were reduced.

Last year, Malawi earned $362 million from 168 million kilogrammes of tobacco. A significant improvement from $177 million earned from 79.8 million kilogrammes in 2012.

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