Mutharika calls for better tobacco prices

President Professor Peter Mutharika has urged tobacco buyers to offer farmers better prices to help empower smallholder farmers in rural areas.

Mutharika made the remarks in Lilongwe on Wednesday during the official opening of 2016 tobacco market season at Kanengo Auction Floors.

He said, “Every year, we always agree on pricing and yet you always abandon our agreement. This year, we told you to suggest the minimum prices yourselves, I did that deliberately. I am a democrat who likes dialogue.

“But you should also know that a person who doesn’t listen is not worth being listened to. Listen to us: I know you have the integrity and honestly to keep your own words. We respect you as investors and that you are important to our economy. But will not respect any exploiters among you, investing in a country is not exploiting the country.”

He described tobacco as a very serious matter to the economy of the country for more than a century now and that the economy continues to depend on the crop.

The Malawi leader said the country had seen the best and worst of times and that government promotes tobacco production and marketing as a crop of strategic importance.

Mutharika said government was promoting tobacco while diversifying agricultural base at the same time, and promoting other economically viable enterprises that include cotton, tea, rice, paprika, cassava, sugar, groundnuts and other legumes, sunflower, livestock, aquaculture and macadamia nuts.

“As government we think about our farmers, we think about our tobacco investors, we think about the economy and finally about the lives of the people. The first thing we need is a good economy for our farmers, investors and everyone,” said Mutharika.

The President said farmers were labouring more and earning less hence the need to tackle the issues with strong regulation of the tobacco industry to reduce the cost of production and the cost of fertilizer.

He said government’s solution was to bring home investors in local fertiliser manufacturing and create more jobs, save the country’s forex and stop importing fertilizer from other countries.

Chairperson for Auction Holdings Limited (AHL) Group, Foster Mulumbe, concurred with Mutharika describing tobacco as the biggest foreign exchange for the country.

He said AHL group was more than prepared to efficiently handle tobacco sales for this year in all its market points.

“We have done all the infrastructure upgrades to ensure a smooth flow of operations and that the industry’s taxes are appropriately channelled to government,” said Mulumbe.

In his address, Chairperson for Tobacco Control Commission (TCC), Inkosi ya Makosi M’mbelwa V said the Commission would do all it could to ensure that the industry remained vibrant and responsive to the needs of all stakeholders, more especially the farmer.

Source: Malwai News Agency