Smallholder tobacco growers in the country have called for well laid out terms and conditions in integrated production system (IPS) of growing tobacco.
Speaking at this year’s World Tobacco Growers Day commemorations in Mzuzu on Tuesday, board chairperson of National Association of Smallholder Farmers of Malawi (Nasfam,) Henry Jere, said tobacco prices are not laid out in the contract making it hard for farmers to plan.
“Most growers have limited understanding of IPS because not much awareness campaign has gone down; farmers need a lot of information on how the system works,” he said.
In his remarks, Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Allan Chiyembekeza said IPS is a crucial issue that his ministry has been discussing with experts.
“Though the system has registered some successes like shortened marketing season and improvement in leaf quality, it is associated with problems like: high interest rates, fluctuating exchange rates, lack of transparency in loan portfolios and administration and weak enforcement of regulations, among others,” Chiyembekeza said.
He said government will review tobacco laws to include IPS.
Chiyembekeza also promised that his ministry will have talks with farmers to address some of the issues.
Concurring with Chiyembekeza, chief executive officer for Tobacco Control Commission, Bruce Munthali, said sustainable pricing mechanism balance between IPS and auction volumes is another key challenge in the industry.
Chiyembekeza also bemoaned high interest rates that banks offer to tobacco farmers.
“Interest rates are on the higher side, therefore, government is looking into it. My ministry met with the Principal Secretary for Ministry of Trade and Industry who will meet officials from Ministry of Finance and Reserve Bank of Malawi on the issue,” he said.
The International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA) set aside October 28 as the World Tobacco Growers’ Day to commemorate tobacco successes globally with the objective of raising awareness all over the world on various socio economic contributions from tobacco.
Tobacco farmers, spearheaded by the Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama), in collaboration with all stakeholders in the industry, commemorated the day under the theme: ‘Tobacco Production: Ensuring Malawi’s Sustainable Socio-Economic Development’.