By George BulombolaMzuzu, August 15, Mana:
Minister of Agriculture, Lobin Lowe has expressed satisfaction over the progress of 2022/23 tobacco farmers.
The registration exercise which started on June 6, 2022 and expected to close in September 30, 2022 in Kasungu, Lilongwe, Blantyre and Mzuzu tobacco divisions.
He was speaking Monday when he paid a surprise visit to Mzuzu Tobacco Division Offices to appreciate registration progress of tobacco growers in the northern region.
The Minister who also took time to interact with farmers said was impressed with how the exercise is being conducted and called on the farmers to consider growing manageable volumes of tobacco to ensure quality of the green leaf which can fetch good prices on the market.
“The farmers registration exercise marks the beginning of the tobacco growing season as it generates data which include number of farmers and expected tobacco volume to be produced within the growing season,” Lowe said.
He said the Tobacco Commission projects 140 million Kilogrammes (Kgs) of tobacco during the season and that it has already established about 30 million Kgs through the undergoing registration exercise.
Chief Executive Officer for the Tobacco Commission, Dr. Chidanti Malunga expressed hope that the commission with achieve the set target of the tobacco volume.
“The registration process usually starts slow and only pick up as the exercise continues. Tobacco buyers have not yet submitted their requirements, once they have done so, we anticipate achieving the target of 140 million Kgs,” he said.
Malunga expressed concern over some buyers who engage growers in contract farming and end up providing loans of non-tobacco related inputs to growers and recover the loans from the growers tobacco sales.
“The Tobacco Industry Act does not all such loans. Some buyers loan out farm inputs such as soya, ground nuts and maize in the name of food security and recover the loans from tobacco sales. This is unfair,” he said.
One of the farmers, Ephraim Salanda said some buyers under contract farming over charge the cost of inputs and sometimes includes charges of items which were not provided to the growers.
He was quick to commend government putting in place strategies which have assisted in addressing some of the challenges which the tobacco industry has been facing and expressed hope that the issue buyers who dupe growers will be sorted out as soon as possible.