Disagreements have arisen between some contracted tobacco growers and buyers over the use of varieties developed by Agricultural Research and Extension Trust (Aret).
The growers seized the opportunity to present their problems encountered on the market with Aret-developed varieties during the 2019 Regional Field Day at Moses Nyambosi Village in Bwengu Extension Planning Area in Mzimba District on Monday.
The field day provided a platform for interaction between Aret and tobacco industry stakeholders.
One of the farmers from the district, Golden Chione, narrated how buyers are shunning varieties developed by Aret when buying the crop, opting for imported varieties.
He alleged that extension workers attached to the tobacco buying companies are asking growers to either uproot all Aret varieties or be removed from their system.
Said Chione: “The buyers give us seeds as part of the contract, but when their seeds don’t perform well for one reason or the other, we top up with certified seeds bought from Aret.
“However, the extension workers are now asking us to uproot the Aret-developed varieties although it is already at an advanced stage.”
He said growers are being told that the varieties from Aret are uncertified.
The sentiments were corroborated by another grower, Stanley Tembo, whose crop was uprooted by the buying company.
Responding to the queries, Aret acting chief executive officer Harrison Ofesi said his organisation is aware of the hitches, adding that Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) is now arbitrating to find a solution.
He said it is unfortunate that buyers are shunning leaf from its certified seeds which is developed to meet the market demands.
“A top official from one of the buying companies will jet in the country next month to discuss the same,” he explained to the concerned growers.
But Ofesi said some buyers are flexible and prefer Aret varieties.
“We have heard reports that in extreme cases, some buyers are ordering farmers to uproot our varieties.
“We would like to request these buyers to come forward and address us if there are any shortfalls with our breeds so that we can improve for the benefit of the country,” he said.
Tobacco is the country’s main foreign exchange earner, contributing about 60 percent to forex, 13 percent to the national economy and supports millions of people directly and indirectly.