In the wake of the slowdown in the global tobacco consumption, Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama) is pondering to diversify crop production and marketing to ensure farmers sustain themselves economically.
Tama president Abiel Masache Kalima Banda said in an interview that the 90-year-old organisation has developed a five-year strategic plan which will see it opt for other crop value chains apart from tobacco.
He said the decision to diversify will sustain the welfare of farmers in the country amid unreliable markets for the crop, which brings in about 60 percent of foreign exchange earnings.
Banda said the institution is re-branding to include other crops in its business for the well-being of the tobacco farmers.
He said: “The five-year strategic plan will go alongside with re-branding of the institution. While the institution will remain tobacco first, it will thrive in looking for additional crops in other business value chains that would assist to support the livelihoods of the farmers.”
Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Principal Secretary Grey Nyandule-Phiri commended Tama for taking the rebranding path, saying it will improve the welfare of many farmers in the country.
However, he cautioned buyers who offer poor prices, saying they should stick to the new Tobacco Industry Act.
He said: “Government continues to place high value of the important contribution the tobacco industry has to the country’s social economic development. We remain committed to working with you towards the improvement of the livelihoods of the people of the country.”
Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar) vice-chancellor George Kanyama Phiri said subdued demand for tobacco calls for rebranding of Tama.
He said: “It is so important that Tama has considered re-branding. But I would advise them to consider thinking strategically. It should include other crops grown in the country if its vision is to be realised.”
Tobacco has remained the country’s main cash crop, contributing about 13 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP) and the tobacco sector employs millions of people directly and indirectly.