Some tobacco farmers in Malawi have spoken out on the introduction of quotas by the Tobacco Control Commission (TCC), saying this will help to eliminate intermediate buyers and improve on the leafÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s quality.
The introduction of quotas is one way of checking tobacco output to enable farmers to grow the crop based on allocated land size.
This followed the unveiling of plans by the Ministry of Agriculture last June to introduce a policy to manage tobacco production to balance the reduction of further erosion to tobacco farmersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ income and profitability with production to the global trade requirements.
Government had been allocating quotas before the tobacco industry was liberalised in the 1990s. Since then, farmers have been overproducing the leaf which affected prices at the auction because of supply surpassing the demand from the buyers.
But in an interview on Friday, Group Village Head Nyimbiri from Magomero in Chiradzulu, who has been growing tobacco for at least two decades, said the introduction of tobacco quotas is long overdue.
Ã¢â‚¬ÂI think quotas will help a great deal because lately, the tobacco industry has been infiltrated by non-tobacco growers who were just taking advantage of the profitability of the crop. The quotas will also enable farmers to produce quality leaf because farmers will be giving much attention to their crop,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Nyimbiri who has been allocated to produce 3 024 kgs of the crop.
This season he has grown flue cured tobacco on a one and half acres, the same as last year, and 0.75 acres of burley down from last yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s one acre.
On his part, Denis Dias from Namwera in Mangochi concurred with Nyimbiri, saying quotas are good but that TCC should ensure they improve on the system to completely eliminate intermediate buyers who have destroyed the tobacco farming because they do not take care of the crop.
Ã¢â‚¬ÂThese middlemen are just interested in making money and not on selling quality leaf,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said.
Nyimbiri added that some farmers have been allocated small quotas yet they have the capacity to produce more.
Intermediate buyers who most of the times flood the markets when they have just been opened, have, over the years, been accused of not properly grading their leaf.
In some instances, they are also accused of putting Non-Tobacco Related Materials (NTRM), a development that dents the image of most of the tobacco growers.
TCC chief executive officer Dr Bruce Munthali said they have this year restricted production to between 150 million kgs and 160 million kgs to be in line with global trade requirements.
This will be a 32 percent drop from last yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s output of 235 million kgs which raked in $293 million (K49 billion), a 30 percent drop from the previous yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s $416 million (K70 billion).