Malawi’s tobacco marketing season could not officially close on Friday, December 9, and has been extended to a week with Lilongwe Auction Floors being the last to sell the leaf, putting to rest a strained season ever.
Lilongwe has delayed to close after a sudden increase in tobacco bales being ferried to the floors during the last weeks which authorities believe was from Zambia and Mozambique where the markets already ended.
Ordinarily, the tobacco sales was supposed to close last week Wednesday, November 30, 2011 but officials could not do so when some farmers still had their bales at the floors.
First to close was Limbe Auction Floors on November 4, 2011 which was followed by Mzuzu on November 25, 2011 and Chinkhoma in Kasungu closed last Friday, December 2.
Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) spokesperson Juliana Chidumu said they had to extend the marketing season after noting that some farmers still had tobacco to sell.
Chidumu said the tobacco sales faced challenges because the Malawi market was infiltrated by tobacco from Mozambique and Zambia “ through some farmers who connive with local farmers who have registration numbers in the country .”
Tobacco remains Malawi’s principal export crop andcontinues to contribute about 60 percent of all foreign exchange earnings annually, 35 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP) and 23 percent to the national tax revenue.
Both directly and indirectly, tobacco industry alone provides livelihood to 71.5 percent of the population, 51 percent of which are women, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.