Tobacco sales officially opened on a good note at Limbe Auction Floors on Wednesday with the highest price hitting $2.35 (K387.75 at the rate of K165 to a dollar) per kilogramme surpassing Lilongweâ€™s peak price of $2.20 (K363) per kilogramme.
The lowest price hovered around 85 cents (K140.25) per kilogramme compared to Lilongweâ€™s lowest price of 55 cents (K91.85) per kilogramme.
This state of affairs pleased government and other players in the industry such as Tobacco Control Commission (TCC), Auction Holdings Limited (AHL) and Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama).
Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Margaret Roka Mauwa, who went around the floors, was happy with the prices offered on the first day, saying they are within and above the set minimum prices of different tobacco grades.
â€œThe quality of tobacco that farmers have brought is better than last year. It is well graded, well processed and the leaf is well matured,â€ she told reporters.
Mauwa said with low output this year, which has slumped by 36 percent to 151 million kilogrammes from a record 237 million kilogrammes last year, buyers should provide better prices because demand for the leaf is likely going to be high.
AHL chief executive officer Evans Matabwa said this yearâ€™s opening prices in Limbe are better than those of Lilongwe floors and last yearâ€™s.
TCC board chairperson Gamaliel Bandawe said with the good quality leaf, he expects the good prices to be sustained throughout the selling season.
A buyer who the minister spoke to on the floors said if the leafâ€™s quality is sustained, the prices are likely going to go up.
At the official opening of this yearâ€™s selling season on Monday, growers in Lilongwe expressed disappointment with President Bingu wa Mutharika for his failure to announce the average minimum prices for this yearâ€™s season.
Mutharika softened his stance and said he did not come to fight with tobacco buyer and growers and thereafter appealed for patience among growers.
He said tobacco marketing is just like any other market because it involves bargaining.