The Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) says it will not entertain growers of uncertified seeds this year, warning that those who will bring such tobacco to the auction floor will not be allowed to sell it.
Farmers who do not register with TCC are largely being blamed for plaguing the market with tobacco from uncertified seeds.
But middlemen or intermediate buyers (IBs) act as conduits for such tobacco as they buy the crop in bulk without scrutinising the quality of the leaf.
TCC has also fingered IBs for being in the forefront of selling poor quality leaf as well as putting non-tobacco related materials (NTRM) in tobacco bales in their quest to maximise profits.
Speaking in Lilongwe on the sidelines of a briefing to update the media on the outlook of the crop this year, TCC chief executive officer Kaisi Sadala, said during his tenure he will fight tooth and nail to make sure that issues of NTRM and selling of tobacco from uncertified seeds are dealt with once and for all.
“Our buyers are looking for high quality leaf and if we allow farmers to grow tobacco from uncertified seeds they will distort the market. Those who will have their bales stuffed with NTRM risk to have their tobacco-growing licences revoked,” he warned.
Sadala explained that despite huge competition from countries like Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Mozambique and Zambia, tobacco buyers are impressed with Malawi’s leaf because it is of good quality.
“That’s why we want to encourage our growers to grow certified tobacco and to stick to the required quotas because sometimes when we oversupply we distort the market,” he said.
Last year, Malawi underproduced tobacco by about 45 percent after growers were frustrated with poor prices in the 2016-17 season. The buyers were looking for 151 million kilogrammes (kg) but the country managed to produce only 105 million kg.
This year, statistics from TCC shows that the country might also underproduce the leaf by between 10 and 15 percent as buyers are demanding 171 million kg of all types of tobacco.
President of the Media Network on Tobacco Alfred Chauwa commended TCC for organising the press briefing which he described as an eye opener.
Tobacco is the Malawi’s leading forex earner.