International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA) Africa Region has said there is no reason to be negative about the future of tobacco, Malawi’s number one foreign exchange earner.
ITGA chairperson Francois Van Der Merwe, in an e-mailed response, said although there are calls from some quarters to diversify away from tobacco, growers are asking for complementary crops to be grown alongside tobacco.
He said tobacco still remains an important cash crop not only for Malawi, but also other tobacco growing countries in Africa and around the world.
“Tobacco farmers need to be involved when diversification pilots and projects are planned and implemented. Ultimately, it is their livelihoods at stake,” he said.
Van Der Merwe, who is also chief executive officer of Tobacco Institute of Southern Africa, said growers should be open-minded, clever and realistic on how they approach tobacco-growing going forward.
Commenting on the high no-sale rejection rates that have characterised the country’s tobacco market this season, he said since farmers are businesspersons, they should understand the market and their clients’ requirements.
“We need to produce marketable tobacco and manage our crop sizes to ensure that we meet demand and not oversupply the market,” he said.
Van Der Merwe said since tobacco is not a growing market globally, all producing countries should be careful in terms overproduction.n