Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation Francis Kasaila on Monday officially opened the 2020 Tobacco Marketing season at Lilongwe Auction Floors with a secret price bidding exercise being implemented for the first time for tobacco buyers.
Expectations are always high over the opening of the season as it will boost the country’s foreign exchange reserves, a situation likely to strengthen further the local currency against major convertibles.
However, with the social distancing measures to combat coronavirus, about 3 000 bales will be put up for sale on a daily basis which is lower than previous years when about 10 000 bales would be put up for sale per day.
Even at the opening, all stakeholders entering the market were observing social distancing, sanitising hands and wearing face masks as compulsory measures.
On the opening day, maximum prices for contract tobacco reached $2.30 while non-contract leaf fetched $1.20, despite some minor issues to do with grading and mixing of grades.
In his remarks, minister Kasaila urged the stakeholders to work hand in hand with farmers in order to make sure that they produce high quality leaf.
He expressed his optimism that this year’s marketing season will be good and satisfactory despite the Covid-19 pandemic.
The minister further commended the Tobacco Commission, Auction Holding Limited (AHL) and the tobacco buying companies for taking proactive measures against the virus pandemic as evident in the availability of sanitizing and hand washing materials at the Floors and around the AHL premises.
Chief Executive Officer, Kayisi Sadala, said the tobacco market selling season has been opened in pursuant to President Peter Mutharika’s directive that tobacco markets be opened in order to protect growers.
He said the tobacco industry stakeholders have been conducting several meetings and consulting health experts on how it can effectively run the markets in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that ultimate grower who invested in producing tobacco sells the product and is economically empowered for the good of his/ her health.