Tobacco growers have bemoaned high rejection rate at the Mzuzu tobacco auction floors.
Speaking in an interview on Tuesday, Central Region Big Tobacco Growers chairperson Henry Ntaba said so far growers are not satisfied with the prices the top leaf is attracting.
“This is the fourth week since the market was opened and growers are supplying middle and top quality leaf; but to our disappointment the rejection rate is high. It seems the buyers are not prepared to buy better leaf now; maybe they do not have a ready market yet,” bemoaned Ntaba who said the bottom leaf that farmers supply at the beginning of the marketing season is the only leaf fetching fair prices.
Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) chief executive officer Bruce Munthali confirmed the development.
Munthali singled out Mzuzu Auction Floors which currently has 20-60 percent middle and top leaf rejection rate.
“Middle to top quality burley leaf is not selling very well; the competition is low for this type of leaf, whereas the no grade tobacco and bottom leaf is doing well,” Munthali said.
He said his team is currently consulting buyers to consider the prices because growers invest a lot to produce good quality leaf.
“I am meeting some of them today on individual basis to consider the prices,” he said.
However, Munthali said some of the buyers say their customers have not yet confirmed the orders for the top leaf while others say their clients may confirm the orders next month.
He said on the contrary main flue cured tobacco is attracting good prices ranging from $3.70 to $4.15 while lug (low quality flue cured tobacco) is not selling well at a minimum price of 35 cents.
He, however, called on growers not to lose hope as the ongoing discussions will bear fruits.
“Growers should still bring the leaf to the floors, there is hope for positive change,” Munthali said.
On a positive note Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama) president Reuben Maigwa said on average the prices are better this year as compared to 2014 marketing season.
He said in reference to No-Grade (NG) tobacco which was not preferred last year, but currently being offered at 85 cents above.
This year’s tobacco marketing season started on April 8th with the opening of Lilongwe Auction Floors.
According to Auction Holding Limited (AHL) the country has so far realised $31.8 million from 21.7 million kilogrammes of tobacco sold in the past three weeks of sales.