Despite Malawi being the second largest raw tobacco exporter in Africa after Zimbabwe, stakeholders say some of the tobacco growers are yet to reap benefits from the crop.
One of the tobacco farmers in Blantyre, Charity Kaunda, who has been growing the crop for about 10 years, said growers have endured numerous deductions from their earnings, leaving them with little or nothing.
He said: “Just because we get inputs from buying companies, we are deducted from the sales and sometimes the inputs are way expensive than what is being offered on the market. But since we get them on loans, then there is nothing we can do.
“For us to get to the auction floors, we have to pay for transport, people there demand payment from us to offload our tobacco on time and there is withholding tax on top of that.”
Agriculture expert Tamani Nkhono-Mvula, who is also former executive director of Civil Society Agriculture Network (CisaNet), said yesterday although the proceeds gap from tobacco between the two countries—Zimbabwe and Malawi—is too huge if calculated on per capita basis of production, the other challenging phenomenon is how much the proceeds from tobacco are benefiting the growers.
“Though in terms of volume we may differ much with Zimbabwe, but the the proceeds gap from tobacco between the two countries is too huge if calculated on per capita basis of production. One of the reasons are varieties that are predominant in these countries with Zimbabwe producing more of flue-cured which fetches an average of $5 (about K3 600) per kilogramme.
The sentiments follow a report by the Trade Law Centre (Tralac) titled Tobacco in Africa: Production and Trade which observes that other than other African producers, Malawi increased production nine-fold while Zimbabwe increased its production by 1.7 times, which is just below the global average.
In an interview yesterday, Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama) president Felix Thole said while others have not benefited from the crop, some have reaped benefits.
“Tobacco growing is voluntary. As is the case with any other enterprise, you may find some individuals or families are not benefiting,” he said.
Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) chief executive officer Kaisi Sadala said Zimbabwe and Malawi grow different types of tobacco varieties.
“We are highest producer of burley while Zimbabwe concentrates more on flue- cured tobacco,” he said.