A 14-member delegation from Malawi is currently in Harare, Zimbabwe, for a five-day study tour on how best Malawi can promote the development of flue-cured tobacco farming.
The delegation, which comprises six flue-cured tobacco growers from all the three regions of Malawi and also officials from the Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) and the Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama), is also scheduled to learn how Zimbabwe has structured its integrated production system (IPS), which Malawi adopted last year, to guide both tobacco farming and marketing.
TCC chief executive officer Bruce Munthali told Nation Online on Monday that the tour follows Malawi President Joyce Banda’s recent visit to Zimbabwe where she was impressed with the output of flue-cured tobacco.
Zimbabwe produces an average of 150 million kilogrammes (kg) of flue-cured tobacco, according to available statistics.
“It [the Zimbabwe tour] will help our farmers look and understand various technologies and the design of tobacco barns used in the curing of flue-cured tobacco,” said Munthali.
He said previously, Malawi could produce flue-cured tobacco of over 60 million kg, but over the years Malawi has seen output for the tobacco variety dwindling.
Munthali said the study tour in Zimbabwe will also help farmers and officials understand all arrangements ranging from support institutions in research, extension and marketing which Zimbabwe government established to promote flue-cured tobacco farming.
The TCC boss disclosed that the President has said that tobacco growers should scale-up flue-cured tobacco growing in the next farming year.
Munthali said the idea is that flue-cured tobacco should complement burley, which has in recent years placed Malawi on the global map as the world’s number one producer.
“The cigarette business is changing globally from burley to Virginia or flue-cured tobacco blended cigarettes. We want Malawi to still remain an important source of tobacco or a one-stop-shop for all types of tobacco,” he said.
When she opened the 2013 tobacco marketing season in March, President Banda lamented that the flue-cured tobacco production is currently dwindling inspite of high global demand.
Malawi currently produces less than 20 million kg of flue-cured tobacco.
“My government will, therefore, continue to promote the production of flue-cured tobacco as one way of responding to the current opposition to burley production and marketing and to the global market demand for flue-cured tobacco,” said the president.
Tobacco is Malawi’s lifeline accounting for more than half of the country’s foreign exchange earnings and contributes 13 percent to the national economy.