The Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development have hailed the impact of the Integrated Production System (IPS)of growing tobacco, saying it has transformed lives of many growers.
Since IPS model was adopted in 2012, 80 percent of the leaf is sold under IPS while the reamining 20 percent goes under the traditional auction system.
IPS has brought mixed views among tobacco stakeholders, with some branding the system as “slave trade” while others claim it is the best system.
Speaking during the best grower awards ceremony in Lilongwe organised by Limbe Leaf Tobacco Company Limited, Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development principal secretary Gray Nyandule Phiri said IPS helps farmers to produce tobacco following set procedures that buyers want; thereby fetching good prices.
He said: “Some people have been saying that IPS is slave trade, but I say that is not the case because farmers use certified seeds, suitable structures and follow all practices that make their tobacco fetch more money as it can be traced easily by buyers.”
In an interview, TCC chief executive officer Kayisi Sadala said as a regulator, they will ensure that all best practices followed by growers under IPS are also taken on board by growers under auction.
“There are best practices that farmers growing tobacco under IPS are following, which make their tobacco marketable and we want to take those practices to farmers cultivating the crop under auction.
“These standards include removal of child labour as well as use of certified seeds and full traceability of the crop, a development which gives confidence to buyers,” he said.
Limbe Leaf Tobacco managing director Donal Mc Alpin also hailed the positive impact of IPS, saying the country is now competing favourably on the international market.
“The Intergrated Production System though fairly new to Malawi, has helped both farmers and buyers. Since the inception of IPS, with the collaboration between government, TCC and all stakeholders, the system has evolved and strengthened allowing Malawi to compete competitively on the global market,” he said.
Tobacco farmer Christopher Kathila from Limbe Leaf Dowa area said selling tobacco under contract of IPS is beneficial as it helps buyers and farmers enter into an agreement which cannot be easily broken.
IPS is touted for its traceability in that buyers can easily know growers engaged in malpractices such as usage of child labour and application of unwanted chemicals.