The Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama), a grouping of tobacco farmers in the country, and AHL Group, want sustainable growth of tobacco to be encouraged if farmers are to get quality leaf that could fetch better prices on the market.
Over the past month, Tama officials have been conducting meetings with tobacco growers, encouraging them to own woodlots.
Flue cured and Northern Dark Fired tobacco use a lot of wood for curing, resulting in destruction of trees.
AHL Group general manager for tobacco sales Moses Yakobe, in an interview on Tuesday, said what Tama is preaching is commendable because without trees, tobacco production will be greatly affected.
He said: “We are encouraging farmers to plant trees and our approach this year has changed because we are using extension workers having noted that tree survival rate in the past season was at 50 percent.
“This year, we have set aside K4.5 million and we will plant 56 000 trees throughout Malawi.”
According to Yakobe, AHL Group has been planting trees for more than six years, but the survival rate has forced management to change approach and all farmers, including those growing other types of crops will be given seedlings.
On the company’s preparedness to open the floors, he said they are prepared, but expect this season to be shorter compared to previous one due to the expected reduced output as a result of dry spells.
“The quality of the leaf in the fields is varying from one district to the other. In the Central Region, the crop is much better, but in the South, there will be less tobacco because of intermittent rains.
“In the North, the crop is also at a tender age because rains normally start a bit late,” he added.
Results of the first crop assessment conducted by Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) show that tobacco output is expected at 149 million kilogrammes (kg), which is 12.8 percent below the international trade requirements at 171 million kg, largely affected by dry spells.
TCC chief executive officer Kaisi Sadala said the initiative by Tama to encourage farmers to have woodlots is commendable as tobacco uses a lot of wood for curing.
“As a regulator, we encourage farmers to plant more trees because that is the only way we can sustain the crop,” he said.
Tobacco is one of the country’s main foreign exchange earners.