Tobacco sales commenced on a relatively positive note at the Limbe Auction Floors Monday as the leaf fetched prices between $1.40 and $2.60.
The highest price offered for all types of tobacco is slightly higher than the $2.55 buyers offered on the opening day of the 2023 tobacco selling season at the Lilongwe Auction Floors last Wednesday.
Both prices are, however, lower than the $2.85 the leaf fetched as the highest price on opening day last year.
But there is optimism among tobacco farmers, who feel the outlook is promising.
At the beginning of the selling season, most farmers bring to the market bottom leaf, which is of relatively lower quality.
One of the farmers we spoke to at the Limbe Auction Floors Monday morning, Charles Fose from Bilira in Ntcheu District, said the start of the market was impressive and that farmers would make a fortune if trends do not change.
Another farmer, Isham Yona, sold his tobacco at $2.60, a price which he rates as impressive.
Tama Trust President Abiel Kalima Banda was equally impressed with the start of the market, and urged buyers to continue offering good prices throughout the season.
He said amid possible effects of Cyclone Freddy, the leaf brought to the market is of good quality and competitive.
“We, therefore, continue to urge buyers to offer good prices for the commodity as producing tobacco requires intense efforts and massive investment.
“We are equally impressed with the quality of tobacco brought and I even commend farmers for standard grading, which should guarantee continued good prices,” Banda said.
Figures show that, this year, the country is expected to produce about 126 million kg of all types of tobacco, up from 85 million kg produced last year.
All things being equal, it is expected that the country would fetch more than what it realised from sales of tobacco last season.
Ministry of Agriculture Principal Secretary Dixie Kampani said the government expects smooth flow of the market this season.
“There is no price which is offered below the minimum set prices; this is pleasing and we expect this to continue.
“We will be getting weekly market performance, especially on prices. If they are not going to be in favour of farmers, we are going to intervene,” Kampani said.
Speaking at the opening of the selling season in Lilongwe on Wednesday, President Lazarus Chakwera said rewarding the growers handsomely is key to ensuring that the tobacco industry remains vibrant.
“Alternatively, buying the tobacco at decent prices motivates and empowers our tobacco growers to continue increasing the quality and quantity of their products going forward, which means it’s a win-win transaction,” he said.
Chakwera appealed to growers to make sure that they grade their crop properly so as to earn better prices.