Growers fear low tobacco prices

This year’s tobacco production estimates by the regulator, Tobacco Control Commission (TCC), have confirmed a 35 percent over production, a development that has stirred panic among growers who fear it will lead to poor prices.

Briefing journalists in Lilongwe yesterday, TCC chief executive officer Kayisi Sadala said the final crop assessment exercise, conducted from February 24 to March 8, established that there is 205.46 million kilogrammes (kg) produced for the season.

Sadala: The fears are unfounded

The final estimate has registered a negligible decline by 0.68 percent compared to the first-round estimates which found 206.9 million kg of tobacco production against the buyers’ demand of 166.8 million kg, thereby representing 35 percent over production.

Tobacco farmers have since accused TCC of failing to regulate the sector. They argue that over production will lead to low prices and losses to growers.

Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) president Alfred Kapichira-Banda, in an interview yesterday, said TCC should have been strategic by conducting crop assessment before agreeing to buyer-demanded volumes.

But Sadala played down the growers’ fears, saying TCC and government are working to ensure that all the produced tobacco is bought to benefit growers in consideration of their investments.

This year, TCC registered an increased number of growers at 52 432 against last year’s 42 207.

Tobacco, rated as the major foreign exchange earner, generated $337.3 million (about K247 billion) in foreign exchange earnings for the country last year.

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