JTI Malawi Limited, one of the tobacco buying companies, has committed to resume buying the leaf from its contracted growers after meeting Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Joseph Mwanamvekha in Lilongwe on the issue.
Last week, JTI Malawi stopped buying tobacco—the country’s main cash crop which contributes about 60 percent of foreign exchange earnings—from its contracted growers after reportedly meeting quota with their growers
But after the meeting on Monday, JTI Malawi corporate affairs and communications director Limbani Kakhome said the firm will have to reconcile figures of how much they bought so far and liaise with Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) and Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development on the way forward.
“Currently, I could say that let’s reconcile the numbers and if we find out that there is tobacco outside the specifications then a decision will be made in consultation with the Ministry of Agriculture and TCC,” he said.
Mwanamvekha indicated that the meeting with JTI Malawi was fruitful and the company promised to resume buying from their abandoned contracted growers only that they needed to consult with their authorities before the actual buying resumes.
He said: “They have assured us that they will buy tobacco but after consulting with their authorities. They have said that they can’t abandon their contracted farmers.”
The meeting at TCC offices was a result of concerns by some contracted growers who protested last week after JTI stopped buying from them.
Kakhome said JTI Malawi has almost reached 100 percent of the tobacco they had targeted to buy this season.
He, however, said the company may consider resuming buying from its contracted growers, adding there is provision that it can buy 10 percent on top of its targeted tobacco in a particular tobacco market season.
One of the farmers under contract with JTI, Piyasi Kafera from Mandala Village in Dowa, said that some of his tobacco could be sold on the auction market.
On his part, TCC chief executive officer Kayisi Sadala said there is more tobacco coming in from Mozambique and finding its way into the selling system such as the auction floors and that has potential of inflating figures, creating an impression that there has been over production.
According to AHL Group figures, tobacco earnings have peaked at $257 million (K188 billion) from 147.3 million kilogrammes of all types of tobacco.
Contract farming is a system whereby tobacco growers enter into a contract with a tobacco company which provides inputs such as fertiliser and chemicals with the promise to buy the tobacco.