- Tobacco farmers at the Lilongwe Auction Floors last week cried foul due to low prices their tobacco was offered, a situation that led to some farmers vowing to quit growing the country’s leading cash crop if things do not change for the better.
The farmers got worked up when their tobacco got very low grades and consequently an offer of prices as low as 40 cents per kilo.
“I had sixteen bales today but they have bought 7 only at 70, 60 and 40cents respectively. 9 bales were given an offer of 90cents but they have been put on re-offer,” said one of the farmers, Jackson Biliati, Tuesday in an interview with The Chronicle.
Biliati, visibly shocked and confused, said that he had sold his car, a Hundai Salon, to invest in the tobacco business but he said with such prices it was evident that he had lost his money.
The farmer further accused the buyers of cheating on the weight of the tobacco.
“Imagine, how can bales that weighed 105kg when baling drop to 75kg? I know the tobacco loses weight in transit to the Auction Floors but not up to 30kgs. It’s unheard of! Its just that we don’t have any where to go and sell our tobacco,” said the worked up farmer whose other 31 bales were on pending.
Another farmer said he would never grow tobacco again with such prices on offer.
“This is my last time. I will never grow tobacco again,” he said, “most of my bales have sold at 40cents.
“Niri n’ngongole zambiri dala moti chochita niribe. Niyanzikhweza basi (I have got a lot of debts and I don’t know what to do. I will simply hang myself,”) he said.
The farmer further complained that the tobacco stays for a long time at the truck park, a holding area where all trucks loaded with tobacco are kept before going to the Auction Floors where the “whites rob the farmers in broad daylight” as this bitter farmer put it.
The tobacco sales were suspended for about two weeks in May due to differences on prices. In his speech during the opening of this year’s tobacco sales, President Mutharika directed that the minimum price for the county’s green gold should not be lower than 1 Dollar 10cents, a directive that the buyers have not paid heed to.
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