Tobacco strategic, important to Malawi’s economy – Mutharika

Lilongwe, President Prof. Peter Mutharika says tobacco is strategic and important to the Malawi economy, apart from contributing greatly to the country’s foreign exchange earnings, it is also important in the socio-economic well-being and food security of the nation.

Mutharika made the remarks Tuesday in Lilongwe during the official opening of the 2017 Tobacco Marketing Season at the Lilongwe Auction Floors.

The Malawi’s Leader therefore promoted tobacco production and marketing as a way of empowering smallholder farmers in the rural areas.

“My Government is determined to continue promoting value addition to increase export earnings from tobacco through manufacturing of cigarettes,” Mutharika assured the farmers and growers of tobacco.

He said government wants better returns from tobacco. This is why it has ensured that the key policy reforms, including Integrated Production System (IPS), review of the Tobacco Act, the new tobacco grower registration system and investments in value addition are prioritized.

The President said the country’s tobacco industry reforms are intended to support the establishment of a transformative framework that will help to address systematic bottlenecks in the industry.

Mutharika said; “This will stimulate increase in productive capacity and enhance linkages to the market. My Government will therefore continue with these reforms in order to create a win-win situation between the buyers and the farmers”.

He added that he was informed that the support provided by tobacco buyers is through the IPS; and that it has enabled tobacco farmers to produce high quality leaf during this growing period, and must therefore be encouraged for the benefit of growers and the nation as a whole.

He said that this support needed to be properly managed to the extent that farmers should be able to graduate from the dependency on loans.

“Unfortunately, I have been receiving reports that tobacco farmers are getting increasingly indebted to micro financing institutions for the rest of their life. This is unethical and unfair. I therefore call upon officials in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development to work with the Tobacco Control Commission to put in place mechanisms that will provide farmers an opportunity to grow out of debts, and mature into self-reliance,” he added.

Mutharika said the IPS was introduced on the understanding that the engaged farmer can either be sponsored or not sponsored, which means that farmer has adequate resources to finance the production.

He said surprisingly some buyers do not want to buy from contract farmers who are ready to sponsor themselves.

“This should stop immediately; farmers should be able to graduate from loans and still produce tobacco under IPS. I expect both the sponsored and non-sponsored farmers to be treated equally when it comes to marketing their tobacco. There must be no discrimination,” Mutharika urged the buyers.

Tobacco Control Commission Chairperson, Inkosi ya Makosi M’mbelwa V said tobacco remains a misty of Malawi economy and therefore every effort is being made to ensure that the crop is protected from any serious challenges.

“As an industry we have embarked on a number of initiatives and reviewed strategic options with a view of improving operation efficiency in tobacco value chain,” said Inkosi ya Makosi M’mbelwa V.

Source: Malawi News Agency – MANA