Alliance One Tobacco (Malawi) Limited, one of the tobacco buying and processing companies, says it has waited for five years to get approval from government to harvest trees it planted in Viphya Plantation in Mzimba District.
The company wants to use the trees from Viphya Plantation, popularly known as Chikangawa Forest, to flu-cure its tobacco, but the process is proceeding at a slower-than-anticipated pace, according to Alliance One leaf production director Leonard Ngwira.
He said the company has been asking government for the rights since 2012 when they planted the first trees in the forest.
Ngwira said they have been meeting officials from the Department of Forestry who gave them a go-ahead to plant trees in the forest, to use for their tobacco in return as they wanted to harvest them.
He said: “We asked for a portion in the forest reserve when government called for stakeholders to come and replant. We told them that we wanted the trees for our tobacco but four years down the line we haven’t yet been given the rights to harvest the trees.”
Ngwira said government through the Department of Forestry gave them idle land to plant trees in Chikangawa and that government has not been forthcoming on the concession issue. He said the trees will be ready for harvest in 2019.
“It is not that after harvest we will leave the land bare. Our programme is to re-afforest and harvest, rather than just cutting down the trees. We were given this land in 2012 and have planted the trees, but up to-date [there is] no response on the concession so we need government to help us,” he said.
Director of Forestry in the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining, Clement Chilima, said in an interview that it was unfortunate that Alliance One has gone to the media when the issue is still under discussion.
He said they cannot just give the concession right to Alliance One without following procedures from the Office of the Director of Public Procurement (ODPP).
Said Chilima: “We need to formalise first. In fact, we met them three weeks ago to discuss this issue and a way forward on it will be communicated soon. We have no problem with them harvesting the trees they planted, but procedures need to be followed.”
Parliament’s Natural Resources and Climate Change committee chairperson Werani Chilenga said his committee will push for a meeting between government and the company to map the way forward.
“If they won’t be given the concession, roughly the government might lose about K450 million a year,” he said.
Alliance One is a contractor, processor and supplier of flue-cured, burley, oriental, sun-cured, dark air-cured and dark fire-cured tobacco. n