Malawi agriculture minister Chaponda adamant on tobacco cultivation amid anti-smoking campaign & worsening prices

    George Chaponda: We will continue growing tobacco

    LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda has disclosed that Malawi will not bow down to pressure on anti-smoking global campaign on growing of tobacco arguing that the tobacco crop remains the country’s main foreign exchange earner.

    Chaponda’s disclosure come amid worsening of the green gold’s prices in this year’s marketing season leaving farmers to on whether to grow the crop or not in the next growing season.

    The minister told World Tobacco Growers Day gathering in the Capital Lilongwe this week that government has done research and revealed consequences of withdrawing from cultivating the crop, arguing that tobacco remains Malawi’s strategic crop.

    “There is no crop which can take over from tobacco in as far as forex generation is concerned. Therefore, we are not and we will not stop growing the crop anytime soon”, said Chaponda.

    Meanwhile, the Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) has attributed dangling of the country’s green gold prices for past three years and 2016 inclusive marketing season to overproduction.

    Overproduction of 30 million kilogram yearly has been registered mainly on burley tobacco which buyers are unable to fit in with their buying power.

    For instance, this year buyers were looking for 132.5 million kilograms against an estimated local production of 165 million kilograms.

    As a result tobacco buyers have already given 151 million kilogram ceiling of all types of tobacco in the next season.

    This has prompted TCC to start enforcing strict quotas on farmers to remain within the required volume of tobacco in 2016/2017 growing season.

    Last week, David Luka, TCC Deputy Chief Executive Officer told the Media Network on Tobacco (MNT) that the commission intends to introduce a news registration system which might deter over production.

    Luka said the new system which dabbed as Farmers Management System (FMS) will require growers to provide information about their fields when applying for quota licenses.

    He said through the system farmers will be given their quota based on the trade requirement in the next marketing season.

    Although the commission has acknowledged complaints on the said system, Luka assured farmers that the initiative was meant for their benefits on prices whose proceeds sales haven’t helped them economically.

    He added that his institution was worried with the current marketing season which was coupled with high rejections rates and low prices hence the need to change the future of the industry.

    “We are appealing to farmers through you the media that they (growers) should understand the situation we are in. We are currently battling with the World Health Organization (WHO) on the anti-smoking lobby and the introduction of e-cigarettes. All these factors have a negative effect on tobacco producing countries Malawi inclusive.

    “Its not our wish to see the farmers grow less tobacco but rather we want to see them producing what will be sold not just grow and end up keeping the green gold in their houses,” appealed Luka.

    Tobacco is the Southern African nation’s main foreign currency earner and accounts for more than 70 percent of exports and 15 percent of GDP.

    The industry employs an estimated two million of Malawi’s current 17 million people.

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