Dry spell may affect tobacco output—TCC

The Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) is worried that the dry spell in some of the tobacco growing districts may negatively affect the leaf’s output.

Over the past two weeks, most of the districts in the Central and Southern regions have not received rains, a development the tobacco regulator fears could affect the crop’s growth.

This year, according to international trade requirements, buyers’ demand is at 171 million kilogrammes (kg) of all types of tobacco, but based on the number of registered growers, the demand may not be met.

Last year, the demand was at 151 million kg but farmers only managed to produce 106 million kg, representing a 55 percent decrease over the previous year’s output.

This is because  in 2016, the country overproduced the crop resulting in low prices and growers were dejected; hence, opted to grow other crops.

In an interview yesterday, TCC chief executive officer (CEO) Kaisi Sadala observed that in other areas such as Namadzi in Chiradzulu, the crop is withering.

He said: “The prolonged dry spell is threatening the crop this year and if does not rain in two weeks, it will be disastrous. In the Central Region, for example, farmers have just transplanted and the crop needs a lot of water.”

In an interview, Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) president Alfred Kapichira, who is also one of  the longtime tobacco growers in the Central Region, agreed with Sadala, saying the  tobacco crop this year is not looking healthy because of less moisture due to the prolonged dry spell.

He said in districts such as Dowa, Ntchisi, Salima, Kasungu and parts of Mchinji, the crop is withering.

“What the TCC is saying is true because even in my own farm, the crop is not healthy. If it does not rain by January 15 then we will have a huge disaster this year because harvests will be poor.

“What is worrying me more is that this is the period crops such as tobacco need a lot of water,” said Kapichira.

But Agriculture Research and Extension Trust (Aret) CEO Andy Khumbanyiwa, whose body conducts research on the crop, said the dry spell is just part of the cycle and it might rain soon.

“These are passing phases in the crop growing calendar. We must be optimistic that it will rain soon and the crops will survive,” he said.

According to a weather forecast by the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services, thundery showers over Southern areas were expected yesterday (Tuesday) covering more Central and Northern areas from today (Wednesday).

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