Despite this year's frustrations faced by tobacco farmers at the auction floors, which has prompted many to believe that more farmers will give up production of the leaf, planting of the crop has started in some parts of the country, at least at Tselingas Estate at Namadzi in Zomba.
Using a method called dry planting, some parts of the Tselingas estate is already developing into a lush-green field as the tobacco seedlings planted some weeks ago have rooted well into healthy crops.
Tselingas Estate Farm Manager Nicholas Kondwani said the company will continue growing tobacco because the system they use in growing the crop enables them to still make profits.
"Dry planting is beneficial since quality tobacco is ensured. The dry period makes the plant to acclimatize itself with the heat so that they become strong and heavy. The result is that at harvesting, we have very big, heavy and strong leaves which are the qualities that buyers look for on the market," said Kondwani.
The estate, which started growing tobacco in the 1950s but adopted dry planting in 1987, specialises in the growing of flue cured tobacco.
Kondwani said although the dry planting system is expensive, it enables them produce good quality tobacco which is highly sought for among buyers.
"Our tobacco is among the best in Malawi and even in Southern Africa," Kondwani said.
He said, however, that the system is labour and capital intensive.
"Just think about the amount of work which is required to plant tobacco on an estate of 108 acres," said Kondwani.
Under dry planting, tobacco is planted before rains start so that the tobacco should become accustomed to dry conditions.
"We make holes on each planting station of 12 inches wide, 18 inches deep, then we put in water of about 18 litres. We immediately apply fertiliser accordingly and a pesticide to control nematodes.
"After doing all these, we do banding on the plant so that the moisture on the planting station should be protected from heat," explained Kondwani.
He said the moisture on the planting station stays for 60 days without the plant wilting or requiring any irrigation.