By Chikondi Chinoka 9/4/15

Despite tobacco being the highest revenue crop that controls the economy this year Malawi has produced lower kilograms of all types of tobacco down from last year.

Latest projections show that the country has produced just 181 million kilograms of all types of tobacco which is far below last year’s production of 191 million kilograms under the leadership of Dr Joyce Banda

2015 tobacco marketing season was opened by President Peter Mutharika at Lilongwe Auction floors where he assured tobacco growers that his government will closely monitor the set minimum prices of 2015 tobacco marketing season.

He said the minimum prices have been set by government but they might go higher than expected and urged tobacco growers to remain calm as the market season starts.

“Government has taken further steps to improve the tobacco prices in the country, it is my expectation that these prices might go up and let me assure you that I will be monitoring these prices,” said the president.

Mutharika said the importance of tobacco to the country’s economy cannot be overemphasized hence his interest to closely monitor the minimum tobacco prices.

This year’s minimum price for burley is US$0.85 for the lowest grade while the highest grade is expected to attract US$2.50 per kilogram.

Flue cured tobacco has the minimum price of US$ 0.35 per kilogram while the highest is expected to attract US$ 4 per kilogram.

Dark fired tobacco has a minimum price of US$ 0.25 per kilogram for the low grade and US$ 3.40 per kilogram for the highest grade.

On this note the president urged growers to produce good quality tobacco and advised them not to mix their tobacco with sand or stones.

“My government is aware that the tobacco industry is facing many challenges but let me assure you that government will continue to engage in dialogue with stakeholders so that tobacco farmers are protected.” Mutharika said.

The president said with the World Health Organization’s anti-smoking lobbying campaign, the demand for tobacco is slightly lower than in past years and advised farmers to practice crop diversification.

“Tobacco farmers should also grow cash crops like tea, paprika, cotton, macadamia nuts, groundnuts and rice,” he explained.

He however said government will continue holding talks with foreign investors to continue buying Malawi tobacco and revealed that a number of foreign companies have already shown interest to invest in the tobacco industry in the country.

In his remarks the Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Dr. Allan Chiyembekeza said adequate preparations had been done to open markets at Chinkhoma, Limbe and the Mzuzu floors.

He also revealed that his ministry had just finished reviewing the Tobacco Act which will protect farmers from various challenges.

However some farmers are not happy with how the tobacco market has started and some analysts doubts the Presidents words that prices are to go high than expected saying rather than going high, prices may go down and that there is no assurance that the prices will be stable throughout the market season. Others are worried that the move by president Mutharika to set prices will drive off buyers to other countries where markets are freely self controlled by the laws of demand and supply