Tobacco farmers in the Northern Region will start selling their tobacco today, Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Allan Chiyembekeza has said.
The minister announced the opening of Mzuzu Auction Floors on Thursday when he made his first trip to Karonga Agricultural Development Division (Kradd) since his appointment into cabinet in June last year.
Announcing the start of tobacco sales in the North, the minister asked Malawians, including agricultural workers, to work with security agents to corner intermediate buyers who could be to blame for substandard leaf which “angered” him when he opened Limbe Auction Floors last Monday.
Chiyembekeza said: “I was not angry with the buyers, but the farmers because despite all the money government is investing in Tobacco Control Commission [TCC], extension services and other effort to promote crop production.The quality of leaf I saw, was the worst I have ever seen in my life time.
“Maybe farmers are not to blame. On second thought, it seems the tobacco I saw was brought in by people who just buy whatever they find in rural areas.”
The minister is an agriculturalist and seed researcher with 21 years’ experience as a civil servant in the ministry.
He reckons it is ironic most tobacco farmers are always crying good tobbacco prices without doing enough to produce the leaf that can fetch the money they want.
Tobacco is the country’s principal cash crop, accounting for almost 60 percent of forex in the country.