A two-hour visit to Lilongwe Auction Floors left a huge impression on an eight-man trade, tourism and industry delegation from Uganda, which vowed to use the experience to ask Ugandan farmers not to stop growing tobacco.
The Ugandan delegation — which was in Malawi from Monday until Thursday to learn how the country is making strides in agriculture as well as tourism — visited, among other places, the AHL Commodities Exchange, the auction floors and Lake Malawi in Salima.
In an interview after visiting the auction floors, leader of delegation, Felix Okot Ogong, who is also Member of Parliament (MP) said the government in Uganda has no say on tobacco farming which has led to private companies exploiting farmers.
“In my country there is no organised tobacco market because it is the buyer who is in control of everything. These buyers contract the farmers, set the price of the crop and sometimes it takes over a month for farmers to be paid. What we have seen here is that farmers are organised from the farm all the way to floors,” Ogong said.
He said his government had been encouraging farmers to quit tobacco farming but they would use the Malawi experience to benchmark their approach
He said they would lobby the Ugandan government to have a say on tobacco matters in the same way that the Tobacco Control Commission is operating in Malawi so that farmers have a middleman who can listen to their grievances and intervene in case of misunderstandings.
“In a growing season in Uganda, we make about $100 million but we are surprised to find out that Malawi can generate as much as $400 million. There is no crop in Uganda which can compete with the Malawi tobacco when it comes to revenue generation,” said Ogong.
General manager for tobacco sales at AHL Group, Moses Yakobe, said the visit by the Ugandan parliamentarians showed that the company has a very good reputation in the region.
“It is encouraging to see that many people are coming to learn how the tobacco trade is conducted, this being the backbone of the country’s economy. The market this year started very well in terms of prices but we had challenges in terms of volumes. But the figures are going up and we hope we will make more revenue this year than last year because the prices are good,” said Yakobe.
One of the farmers at the floors, Mesan Molosi from Kasiya, said the fact that visitors are coming to learn how Malawi sells its tobacco should inspire the buyers to offer better prices to farmers.
“We are happy when people are coming to learn how we are conducting our business but we should take the opportunity to ask buyers to give us better prices,” said Molosi.
During the visit, Business News discovered that some bales of primes and lugs (tobacco from bottom stems) was classified no sales to the chagrin of the farmers.
Other bales with cutters, leaf and tips were also bought at prices the farmers were not happy with