Some sugarcane farmers in Nkhotakota say they are contemplating on switching to other cash crops due to low produce prices.
Farmers in the district, which is one of the biggest sugarcane producing areas, were guaranteed of good prices of the cane in 2019/20 season.
But Illovo Sugar (Malawi) plc Dwangwa factory, which is the largest buyer alongside newly established Salima Sugar Company, bought the commodity at K235 658.00 per tonne down from K266 729.48 per tonne offered the previous year.
Nkhotakota North legislator Henry Chimunthu Banda, who is also a sugarcane farmer from Kaongozi in the district, said farmers need urgent government intervention to help them benefit from the crop.
“The input costs increase every season but the price of at which we sell off our produce has not increased instead,” he said.
In April, Sugarcane Growers Association of Malawi (Sugam) petitioned Ministry of Trade and Industry on the matter arguing that the 2019/20 price of sugar is lower than the provisional price which Illovo had declared at the beginning of the 2019 milling season.
Sugam said: “For example, in Dwangwa, Nkhotakota, the provisional price was K266 729.48 per tonne of and the final price is K235 658.00 per ton of sugar.
“This implies that the farmers owe Illovo Sugar [Malawi] plc K31 071.48. This means the majority farmers will not receive anything in May when they usually get the final payment. If the farmers don’t get any revenue, they will not be able to pay for harvesting and maintenance,” reads the petition in part.
The lobby group also asked government to set a regulatory framework to govern the industry arguing that the absence of the blueprint is compromising sustainable growth of smallholder sugarcane production.
Illovo Sugar Malawi (plc)spokesperson Ireen Phalula said she could not respond as she was still consulting on the matter.
However, the ministry’s spokesperson Mayeso Msokera said they are undertaking a fact-finding investigation to gather sufficient information from involved parties on the matter.
“The process has slightly delayed due travel restriction imposed by government to help contain further spread of the novel coronavirus [Covid-19] pandemic,” he said.