Market regulator Tobacco Commission (TC) says it is upbeat of surpassing the targeted 140 million kilograms (kg) of tobacco next year and has date registered farmers to grow 30 million kg.
TC’s optimism comes against the backdrop of tobacco farmers’ failure to meet last season’s target of 100 million kg, having only produced 86 million kg.
Speaking on Monday when Minister of Agriculture Lobin Lowe visited TC offices in Mzuzu to appreciate the registration and licensing of tobacco farmers, TC chief executive officer Joseph Chidanti-Malunga said the registration process, which started on June 6 and is expected to end on September 30, has now picked up. He said: “The exercise normally
starts slow then it picks up because at the beginning there are no buyers and we only register those on auction marketing system.
“As time progresses, buyers submit their requirements and we register farmers on the contract system.”
Malunga said by the end of August, the numbers of registered tobacco growers is expected to significantly pick up.
He warned tobacco growers that it is against the Tobacco Industry Act 2019 for buyers to offer loans on other crops.
“If a grower gets inputs on other crops, then the deduction should not come from tobacco proceeds because we want to account on tobacco,” said Malunga.
In his remarks, Lowe said government is on a campaign to improve last season’s tobacco output, which was a
“We are sure that we will meet the target this season,” he said.
Lowe said government expects more farmers to grow tobacco in the forthcoming season because of the average price appreciation, which peaked at $2.14 (about K2 194) per kg compared to $1.59 (about K1 630) per kg during the previous season.
He urged more farmers to register as tobacco, touted as the country’s main foreign exchange earner, is the only crop that has an organized market.
“This is a campaign to call for more farmers to register because Malawi depends on tobacco for its foreign currency. We are promoting this crop to get the necessary foreign exchange,” said Lowe.
The minister advised the growers to only get tobacco-related loans to assist them in their farming and not unrelated activities.
Lowe said most tobacco farmers complained that they got a raw deal from buyers who urged them to take loans for inputs for non-tobacco-related crops, including maize and soya beans, which were received in dollars.
“This left farmers with insufficient funds to take home and draining the country’s foreign exchange,” he said.
One of the tobacco growers, Ephraim Salanda, said some buyers under contract farming overcharge the cost of inputs and sometimes include charges of items not provided to the growers.
He commended government for putting in place strategies that have assisted in addressing some of the challenges the tobacco industry has been facing.
Tama Farmers Trust president Abiel Kalima
Banda is quoted as having said that growers spent a lot on production due to other factors such as the late onset of rains, a situation which affected their revenues and frustrated farmers.
He said: “Prices this year were higher when compared to last year and we had a lot of setbacks, but our concern was that these prices were not reflective of the cost of production.
“Whether farmers will be willing to continue, let us wait and see.”
During the ongoing grower registration and licensing exercise, TC has raised the minimum production quota for clubs from 3 000 to 5 000kg, although growers with limited capacity are allowed to get licensed for less than the set minimum, according to TC spokesperson Telephorus Chigwenembe