Tobacco is Malawi’s number one foreign exchange earner, followed by sugar and tea.
Chapola told Africa Press Agency during an interview in Lilongwe to mark the end of the country’s tobacco selling season that 190 million kg of tobacco was sold this season, compared to the 111 million kg of the crop sold last year.
“This represents an increase of 55 million kg above the final estimate of 135 million kg of both burley and flue cured tobacco,” he said.
The increase in the tobacco earnings have come about because farmers this year produced high quality of tobacco due to the good rains experienced in many parts of the country, he said, adding that the high prices which the buyers offered during the season attracted more smallholder farmers to produce a lot of tobacco as well.
The overall average price was US$2.40 for burley tobacco per kg, a big improvement when in the past seasons the crop used to earn less than a dollar for a kg of the high intensive crop.
Malawi President Bingu Mutharika’s intervention in the tobacco industry is credited with the improved earnings, after his public accusation of the buyers – most of them foreigners – as thieves for their low priced offers to the poor farmers.
They (tobacco farmers) can hardly afford to buy a bicycle from their earnings due to the low prices paid for their tobacco, Mutharika fumed, before he imposed a minimum price of US$1.10 per kg of every tobacco sold on the local market.–APA