Five days before tobacco sales start in Mzuzu, the Mzuzu Auction Floors is faced with low tobacco inflow; a situation that could delay the opening.
In an interview on Wednesday, Tobacco Control Commission(TCC) chief executive officer Bruce Munthali said it is worrisome that the floors scheduled to open on April 20, has registered 500 bales only.
“We, however, need 5 000 bales for the market to open,” Munthali said.
He attributed the slow flow to late onset of rains that characterised the Northern Region this growing season and delayed the planting period.
On a positive note, Munthali said the region will produce 42 million kilogramme (kg) of all leaf types, estimating a three million kg increase than last year’s 39 million kg.
“This year’s estimates are at 36 million for burley, 5.4 million flue cured and 600 000 for dark fired cured tobacco,” he said.
Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama) chief executive officer Graham Kunimba said the delay is also due to Mzimba South growers who have opted to sell their leaf at the nearby Chinkhoma Market in Kasungu.
Kunimba said the northern market needs two weeks more to have adequate stocks as at the moment most growers are still preparing their leaf.
“We have always opened Mzuzu market a month after the Lilongwe floors, however, most growers complained. We then decided to heed their plea and open earlier; but most of them are not ready with their leaf, they need more time,” Kunimba said.
He said if the stocks remain low, they will have no choice but delay the opening.
He, however, said Tama will sensitise farmers to take their leaf to the market in the remaining days to beef up stocks.
The 2015 tobacco season started last week Wednesday with the opening of Lilongwe Auction Floors and Chinkhoma Auction Floors in Kasungu on Friday.