Tobacco firm plays down weather impact

JTI Leaf Malawi says it expects its contracted tobacco growers to deliver good quality crop during the 2019 Tobacco Marketing Season despite unfavourable weather conditions in some tobacco-growing districts due to the impact of Cyclone Idai.

The company’s corporate affairs and communications director Limbani Kakhome said this yesterday in Lilongwe ahead of 2019 Tobacco Marketing Season which starts at Lilongwe Floor on April 25.

Tobacco growers will start selling their leaf next Thursday

“We have gone around visiting our growers and we are happy with what we have seen. The quality of the leaf is quite good,” he said.

In early March, floods hit 15 of the country’s 28 districts, destroying crops, infrastructure and killing 56 people.

But Kakhome said as a company, they provided training and extension services throughout the crop cycle which he said helped their growers to manage hostile weather conditions while meeting new industry leaf standards in line with global demands.

As one way of ensuring utmost good quality leaf, he said the company has been holding grading clinics to impart skills and knowledge to its growers to eliminate non-tobacco related materials.

On the business operating environment, Kakhome said as an investor, JTI believes the stable macroeconomic conditions characterised by falling interest and inflation rates would be sustained, coupled with a stable kwacha.

Last year, JTI, which has been operating in the country for 10 years, bought 24 million kilogrammes  (kg) of the leaf and was paying its contracted farmers an average of $1.80 per kilogramme (about K1 320), a price which he said was above the national average for the season.

Meanwhile, AHL Group, formerly Auction Holdings Limited (AHL), says all is set for the 2019 Tobacco Marketing Season.

The group said all the four main floors of Lilongwe, Chinkhoma in Kasungu, Mzuzu and Limbe in Blantyre have been inspected by government and certified fit to carry out tobacco sales for the 2019 season.

The four auction floors have a combined daily capacity to handle 25 000 bales as minimum.

On his part, Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) chief executive officer Kayisi Sadala said the regulator is yet to receive government communication on minimum prices.

“For the market to run smoothly, farmers must make sure they grade tobacco well to avoid losing to poor prices or being rejected which could affect their level of returns,” he said.

TCC final crop assessment exercise conducted from February 24 to March 8, established that this year’s output is pegged at 205.46 million kilogrammes (kg), which is more than the buyers’ demand at 166.8 million kg.

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