Malawi President Joyce Banda has told tobacco merchants to ensure that Malawi takes the lead in selling burley tobacco than any country globally.
Speaking during the opening of the new tobacco marketing season in the capital, Lilongwe on Monday, Banda said she was reliably informed that there is an increase in demand for burley tobacco worldwide which, she said, is good for Malawi being the largest producer of burley tobacco.
“I would like to appeal to you, our tobacco buyers, to make sure that Malawi takes a lion’s share of the global burley tobacco market,” said the President.
The season began on a good note as prices, through the auction system, fetched as high as $220 (about K880) with the lowest prices noted being 90 cents (about K360).
The President, however, said she was concerned that flue-cured tobacco production is reducing over the years in spite of high global demand.
Malawi has over the years been producing less than 20 million kilogrammes of flue cured tobacco despite the souring demand for the tobacco variety on the world market.
“My government will, therefore, continue to promote the production of flue cured tobacco as one way of responding to the current opposition to burley production and marketing and to the global market demand for flue cured tobacco,” she added.
Banda said she was impressed that tobacco farmers have responded favourably by increasing production which, she said, has doubled already this year.
She said tobacco buyers are willing to offer good prices for quality leaf, adding that she has no doubt that Malawi will double foreign exchange revenue from the tobacco industry this year.
The President said Malawi will continue promoting tobacco production and marketing as a crop of strategic importance to ensure that growers in the rural areas earn decent incomes and that a nation enhances foreign exchange earnings in the short term.
During the last season, tobacco prices gradually increased from an average of $1.04 per at the start of the season to $2.20 per kilogram towards the end of the season.
Last year, both the volume and revenue from the leaf tumbled miserably to 79.8 million kilogrammes and $177 million from a volume of 236 million kilogrammes and $292 million realised in the previous year, respectively.
In 2011, Malawi produced about 237 million kilogrammes of tobacco and eventually emerged as the world’s number one producer of burley tobacco in the process.