Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) president Alfred Kapichira-Banda has asked government to end Integrated Production System (IPS), also known as contract system of growing tobacco, saying the contracts farmers sign are not binding.
FUM are not alone to express these sentiments; AHL Group also has reservations with the system approved in 2012.
Speaking in an interview in Lilongwe on Friday, Kapichira-Banda argued that contract system only benefits buyers as farmers are being exploited.
He said: “IPS should be abolished because farmers are not benefiting. Even if farmers are given inputs under IPS, the contracts they sign have a lot of secrecy.
“Imagine this year some famers with contracts ended up selling the crop under auction. We want farmers to benefit and that cannot be done if buyers have too much powers to decide how the tobacco market behaves.”
Kapichira-Band said farmers should be involved in formulating prices for tobacco and should also be allowed to grow a local variety known as Chizewe which attracts higher prices as compared to BRK4.
Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Allan Chiyembekeza could not be reached for comment yesterday, but he recently said misunderstandings in the tobacco sector cannot just end overnight because it is a sensitive and political crop.
“It is not true that farmers are forced to grow BRK4, but when they are growing the crop under contract the buyers have the final say because they emphasise on quality,” he said. n