Malawi tobacco market season opens Monday

Expectations are high among Malawian tobacco growers for better news as President Bingu wa Mutharika opens the 2012 tobacco marketing season on Monday morning.

Mutharika will preside over the official national opening of this year’s tobacco buying and selling season at Kanengo Auction Floors in Lilongwe.

The Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) said after Mutharika’s official opening of Kanengo Auction Floors, Limbe, Chinkhoma and Mzuzu will follow on March 28, April 02 and April 16respectively.

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

TCC Public Relations Officer Juliana Chidumu said the official opening has delayed by two weeks compared to last season in order to give farmers more time to care for their leaf.

According to TCC’s estimates, Malawi is this year expected to produce about 151 million kilogrammes down from 237million kgs attained in the year 2011, representing a 36 percent drop.

Burley alone is estimated at 134million kgs which is 52 million kilos lower than that of last year.

This year, most farmers expect good prices as compared to last year where auction floors had to be suspended several times due to disagreements between growers and buyers over the prices that were being offered.

The development forced a number of farmers to switch to other selling crops after being dissatisfied with the prices which has resulted in a significant fall in supply of the leaf.

At the time of closing the market in November last year, prices were averaged at $1.24 (K207) per kg down from an average price of $1.90 (K317) per kilo during the 2010 season.

Speaking when he opened the floors last year, Mutharika described the tobacco buyers as colonists and also accused them of sabotaging his economy by rejecting good-quality leaves and offering low prices.

Mutharika also deported four top foreign tobacco buyers for their failure to adhere to the prices he set. The four included Kevin Stainton and Van der Merwe of Limbe Leaf Tobacco Company, Colin Armstrong of Alliance One and Alex Mackay of Premium Tama.

The Malawi leader did not stop there; he also took a swipe at his cabinet minister and senior government officers accusing them of not supporting his battle against poor tobacco prices because they have contracts to sell their tobacco at higher prices at the expense of poor famers.

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