JTI Leaf (Malawi) Limited says it is pushing for the review of 2019 Tobacco Industry Act to remove sections that block buyers from granting loans to farmers to grow alternative crops.
Speaking on Friday in Lilongwe during a news conference on the 2021/22 Tobacco Marketing Season, JTI Leaf Malawi corporate affairs and communications director Limbani Kakhome said that the legislation contradicts the policy of crop diversification, which government has been promoting.
“For instance, Section 45 subsection three of the Tobacco Industry Act which bars buyers from providing loans for alternative crops caused huge outcry in our grower communities as our growers heavily relied on these inputs for production of maize for subsistence,” he said.
Kakhome said that barring the tobacco buyers from signing alternative crops deals with farmers has a bearing on the country’s agriculture.
Said Kakhome: “This section also had a huge impact on national food security as tobacco growers who are not eligible for loans under the Affordable Inputs Programme grow between six to seven percent of the national maize yield.
“Yet, they make up only one percent of the growers in this country. So, this gives you an idea of the impact they have on the country’s food security.”
He said the section was in direct contradiction with Section 4 (b) of the same Act which mandates Tobacco Commission to promote crop diversification.
“The rationale behind providing loan inputs for alternative crops is that it supports good agricultural practices,” he said.
Commenting on the 2021/22 season, Kakhome described it as challenging due to delayed rainfall which reduced tobacco utput for its contracted growers by between 15 percent and 20 percent.
“However, pricing has been buoyant due to increased demand and as usual, JTI contracted growers are enjoying higher averages than the market,” he said.
Tobacco Commission public relatons officer Telephorus Chigwenembe said in a written response on Sunday that they have already initiated the review of the Act.
“The stakeholders have had an opportunity to contribute to the review,” he said.
Tobacco still remains the country’s main foreign exchange eaner bringing about 60 percent of forex.