Mzuzu Auction Floors officially opened for the 2013 tobacco sales on Monday with mixed reactions from different stakeholders regarding the prices offered.
During the opening, burley was sold at average price of $1.25 (K525) per kilogramme (kg) while flue cured tobacco fetched $4.20 (K1 764).
Speaking after the official opening of the market, Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) board chairperson Gamaliel Bandawe expressed satisfaction over the prices that were offered on the opening day, citing flue cured.
“We have observed that the start has been very good as was the case in Limbe, Kanengo and Chinkhoma. Some bales have attracted about $3.50 (K1 479) and, so, one is bound to understand that the start has been very good. If that continues, farmers are bound to make good money,” he said.
However, some farmers expressed dissatisfaction with the prices.
One of the farmers, Zondwayo Makwakwa, from Traditional Authority Mpherembe in Mzimba was not impressed with the prices offered on the opening day, saying they will not get enough money to pay their workers if the current trend continues.
“I am not impressed with the prices we are getting today on our tobacco, taking into consideration the work involved in producing the leaf. You can imagine some of the leaf is fetching the price as low as $0.90 [K378] per kg which is unhealthy for us.
Our colleagues from Limbe, Kanengo and Chinkhoma at least got good prices during the opening days as compared to what has happened here. Burley farmers are not happy with the prices being offered here,” complained Makwakwa.
But in a separate interview, Bandawe lamented the tendency of some farmers who had mixed grades in one bale, saying the tendency has a negative bearing on the pricing of the leaf.
Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama) president Reuben Maigwa also shared the concerns of the TCC, saying farmers’ malpractices have the potential to lower the price of the leaf.
“The problem we have come across today is that farmers have put tobacco of mixed grades in a bale which made buyers offer low prices. We, therefore, ask them to ensure they put the same grade in one bale for them to realise better prices,” he said.
President Joyce Banda opened the tobacco sales season with the opening of Lilongwe Auction Floors on March 11.
So far, cumulative earnings from the leaf has peaked at $16.7 million (K7 billion).
Malawi has produced 156 million kg of tobacco this year which is expected to earn $300 million (K126 billion).
Last year, the country raked in $177 million out of 79 million kg of the leaf produced.—Additional reporting from Mana