Coupled with poor rainfall patterns which have seen up to half of the population of Malawians in need of food aid, the country’s major forex earner, tobacco, the country’s biggest export crop is now facing a tough time on the auction floors.
The drought has ravaged much of southern – Africa, but Malawi has been the worst-hit country with almost half of its population of about 15 million affected.
“It is common sense that this industry is on the verge of collapse. The best that can happen is for government to just ask us to stop growing this crop and diversify. For me, this year is my last. I have given up growing tobacco and I am cultivating potatoes” Said martin Douglas, a farmer.
While the government has established minimum prices for the leaf, buyers continue to pay less than the stipulated auction prices.
Companies have also began contracting individual farmers to grow and produce the crop. But some farmers say they are not making as much as they would if they took their harvest directly to the auction floors.
Communications Manager for tobacco trading company Mark Ndipita said it is unlikely farmers will see much profit from tobacco this year.
“This is not a good picture in terms of revenue for the government. It is not also good in terms of the income for tobacco farmers who rely their livelihood on tobacco. But as a country, we know the government is promoting diversification but farmers that relied much on tobacco this year will suffer a big blow,” Ndipita said.
Tobacco accounts for more than 60% of the southern African country’s exports and 15% of its gross domestic product.