Tobacco earnings at the country’s auction floors have quickened to $68 million, a figure which represents 19 percent above what was earned during the first seven weeks of marketing last year, the Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) figures have indicated.
During a similar period last year, tobacco-Malawi’s major foreign exchange commodity but whose market is strained on the global market-earned Malawi $57 million, according to official TCC figures Business Review has seen.
This means that for the past seven weeks the market has been in progress, the market conduct has moved fast, apparently, propelled by little disruptions at auction floors unlike last year when the market was riddled by regular suspensions due to disagreements between growers and buyers over prices.
According to TCC figures, during the first seven weeks, 45.9 million kilogrammes (kgs) of tobacco has been sold compared to 34.2 million kgs sold last year, representing a 34 percent increase.
However, the market is still slippery in terms of national average prices as the analysis shows that during the period, the cumulative national weighted average has gone down by 11 percent to $1.48 from $1.67 it fetched last year.
Average price for burley tobacco alone has declined by 10 percent to $1.45 from $1.62, according to the figures.
The same applies to flue-cured tobacco national average price which has declined by 19.5 percent to $2.12 from $2.63 last year, according to TCC.
Speaking in random interviews with Business News on Monday, revealed that most tobacco growers are still weeping over low prices at the auction floors during the first seven weeks.
“I am short of words, I have sold five bales at low prices and as low as 95 cents.I will definitely struggle to finance for my inputs in the next season, ” lamented one grower Tennyson Kamphambe whom we found at Chinkhoma Auction Floors.
The Tobacco Growers Association of Malawi (Tama) chief executive officer Graham Kunimba recently also complained to Business News that most of the challenges that gripped the market in the early days of marketing such as low prices were still prevalent at the auction floors.
The Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) chief executive officer Bruce Munthali, whose institution is charged with the responsibility of regulating the market and ensure harmony between buyers and growers, could not be reached for comment as he is reportedly in Zimbabwe for other duties.
Last year, Malawi earned $362 million, which was almost double than $178 million earned in 2012.