Malawi Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Allan Chiyembekeza has said the ministry is currently compiling a comprehensive report detailing key challenges haunting tobacco growers in the country to ensure that they are fully addressed.
Chiyembekeza said this at Matenje Extension Planning Area in Traditional Authority (T/A) Khombedza in Salima on Monday where he toured tobacco nurseries alongside other senior government and Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) officials.
The minister was reacting to unrelenting outcries from tobacco growers in the area who complained about high interest rates, exchange rate volatility, punitive deductions from their proceeds, high cost of farm inputs on the market and long duration to get registered at TCC, as some major challenges “robbing” tobacco growers.
Said Chiyembekeza: “Right now we are in the process of investigating all the challenges that you growers are facing and after that we will write a full report which will be sent to the President for him to act.”
Chiyembekeza said some of the challenges cited by most tobacco growers are genuine; hence, the need for all problems to be looked into.
But he downplayed complaints raised by growers about the levies most tobacco institutions continue to collect from them.
“For them [Aret, TCC, AHL] to offer services to the growers, they depend on the levies paid by the farmers because these institutions do not grow tobacco. But, as government, we are looking at ways of reducing those levies.”
The minister said, so far, he has already met and discussed with tobacco buyers and representatives from Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama) on the challenges facing growers as part of a process of compiling a detailed report to the President.
TCC chief executive officer Bruce Munthali said they have been tasked by government to seriously probe the deductions that apply to tobacco growers on their revenue to appreciate the relevance of those levies.
But he stated that it was imperative for the growers to understand that tobacco institutions such as TCC cannot function effectively without levies on tobacco.
A tobacco grower, Mirambo Phiri, who has been growing tobacco since 1980, said he only remains with 20 percent of all his revenue from tobacco after deductions of levies, which he complained have seriously choked tobacco farming.