Agriculture Minister Professor Peter Mwanza says there is a good case to prove for contract tobacco farming in Malawi if the initiative lives up to its promise to empower smallholder farmers and create sustainability for the countryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s chief foreign exchange-spinning industry.
Speaking on Monday when he toured smallholder tobacco farmers facilitated by JTI Leaf (Japan Tobacco International) Malawi in the Mponela Extension Planning Area in Dowa, Mwanza said the initiative offers an alternative escape route from poverty for small growers unable to finance their farming.
“I would like to encourage more smallholder farmers to join contract farming. We have a situation whereby most small farmers are unable to maximise from their tobacco because they lack support in form of capital and extension services. The JTI initiative is a good case of what smallholder farmers could achieve,” he said.
The JTI facilitated farming initiative is currently being financed by Malawi Savings Bank (MSB), a wholly-owned government bank.
JTI works with the Agricultural Research and Extension Trust (Aret) and Mwimba College of Agriculture to provide joint extension services to farmers.
Mwanza said the fact that a wholly-owned government bank was providing capital underscored Capital HillÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s commitment to supporting smallholder tobacco farmers nationwide.
“Tobacco still remains the countryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s anchor economic commodity. Smallholder farmers must not give up their efforts because as government, we are committed to the sector,” he said.
JTI Leaf managing director Neville Young said his company, which entered the Malawi market in 2009 after taking over assets of Africaleaf Processors, is facilitating 2 700 farmers in 15 districts.
“With facilitated farming, less becomes more. Our objective is to create long-term and sustainable value in the tobacco industry chain. Under this model, JTI is mobilising farmers and financial institutions to bring the best out of every tobacco leaf plucked from the field,” he said.
Young said the facilitated farming model by JTI promotes sustainability through reforestation, food security, elimination of child labour and provision of integrity in the farming process through traceability, improved agronomy practices and security of high quality and market-competitive leaf.
One of the facilitated farmers, Charles Banda, said the initiative has helped to increase his net proceeds from tobacco, resulting in a better quality of life for his family.
JTI Leaf Malawi Limited is a subsidiary of the worldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s third largest cigarette manufacturer, JTI group.