Malawi President Peter Mutharika has asked Phillip Morris International (PMI) of USA to consider increasing their tobacco buying prices depending on market forces to enable farmers to meet at least some of their economic challenges.
“Farmers face a lot of problems ranging from bank and group loans, farm inputs to natural disasters, an increase in their profit margins would make a huge difference in their lives”, said Mutharika during a meeting with the chairperson of Phillip Morris International, Philip Morris in Washington on Tuesday.
He assured the company, which is the major customer for Malawi tobacco accounting for about 50 percent of the market share, that his government has put in place a series of measures to produce a clean and compliant tobacco crop.
Among other measures, Mutharika said government has rolled out the Integrated Tobacco Production Systems (IPS) based on good agricultural practices good labour practices, and good environmental management practices (re-aforestation) and migration to a comprehensive, decentralised tobacco grower registration system to enhance traceability and to enable the definitiveness of the data.
Mutharika also stated that Malawi is one-stop shop for all major types of tobacco which include burley, flue cured and dark fird tobacco making the country one of the largest producer of tobacco in Africa.
He said it was in this regard that his government was requesting Philip Morris International to upscale their presence in Malawi by increasing its investments that is making the country the headquarters for the African Region.
The President said this could be achieved by investing in cigarette manufacturing, promoting smallholder-driven flue cured tobacco production through the company’s local suppliers, increase provision of fully sponsored burley tobacco growers through IPS model and to expand corporate social responsibility programmes in environmental mitigation, health and education.
In his response, Morris reiterated his commitment to continue being the largest buyer of tobacco in Malawi at over $200 million (about K90 billion) in a year, saying his company is more ultimate for farmers and will continue doing so in a more responsible way.
“IPS is committed to economic development of tobacco farmers in Malawi, as such it will do everything possible to support them depending on the market bases,” he added.
**Diana Phiri, Mana In Washington DC