Malawi President Peter Mutharika has declared that tobacco growing and marketing in Malawi should be a win-win opportunity for both growers and buyers of the crop which provides the bulk of the nation’s foreign exchange earnings.
He was speaking at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe on Tuesday, when he met major international and local buyers of the Malawi tobacco, ahead of today’s commencement of the leaf’s marketing season.
Mutharika stressed that whether the tobacco season will hinge on the increasingly-popular contract farming or the older auction system, he wants the ordinary farmers to be adequately rewarded for their toil in the fields.
“All of us (tobacco growers and buyers) are in it together. We should make sure that we are in a win-win situation and that we are not in an adversarial position,” he stated.
Mutharika said his government is doing its best in leveling the playing field in the key tobacco industry, including ensuring fair trading and justice by curbing what some farmers see as buyers’ ploy of enforcing low market prices by ganging up to exact unreasonably low grades to what seems top quality tobacco.
He added that, on the other hand, the government is trying hard to address buyers’ frustrations, including several fees they need to pay before they transact in earnest and the growers’ tendencies of making their tobacco bales seem weightier by including foreign elements.
Mutharika, who had Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Minister Allan Chiyembekeza as part of a government team on his side, discussed most of the ‘hot’ issues in camera with the impressive group of buyers, who represented some 15 major companies, including some which are sampling the Malawi market for the first time.
Responding to Mutharika’s speech, on behalf of the buyers and before they went into the private talks, Limbe Leaf Company Limited Managing Director Rod Hagger thanked the government for showing a positive approach to boosting the tobacco industry.
He said the buyers subscribe to the fair trading ideal that the ordinary farmers, who enable the industry to tick, should be adequately rewarded for their labour.
Hagger pointed out that despite some technical challenges, like the international anti-tobacco lobby, the country’s tobacco buyers and their international and local firms, continued investing significantly in Malawi through infrastructural development and job-creation, among other ways.
He, however, stressed the need for the industry to attain even higher standards, as demanded by end users, if Malawi is to secure a niche as a top-notch tobacco producer on the international market.