Players in the tobacco industry have asked government to remove value added tax (VAT) on agricultural lime if growers are to benefit from the leaf.
Tobacco growers whose soil has low power of hydrogen (PH) are required to apply lime to raise the PH level to enable the crop do well as they achieve low yield without applying lime.
However, most growers do not afford lime which is sold at K3 000 per 50 kilogramme bag. A hectare requires 40 bags, according to research by Agricultural Research and Extension Trust (Aret).
In an interview on the sidelines of Aret Annual Tobacco Field Day at Kabwafu Research Station in Mzimba last week, Alliance One Tobacco (Malawi) Limited leaf production director Ronald Ngwira said research conducted on soils from 631 farmers showed that over 60 percent require application of lime.
He said players in the tobacco industry have been calling upon government to intervene every year but to no avail.
“VAT [on lime] has to be reduced or removed. The challenge is that we have been told, although not directly from government, that it is difficult to differentiate between agricultural and construction lime,” he said.
Ngwira said the impact of low yield is affecting farmers in the whole agriculture sector not just tobacco.
In her presentation, Aret agronomist Yaona Mtonga said liming is a major challenge in the sector, as without the ingredient most farmers produce a stunted crop.
“Research done at Bunda College revealed that only two percent of tobacco farmers practise liming,” she said.
Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama) acting chief executive officer Lemmy Chitawo said they support calls for government to remove VAT on lime to help those farmers whose soils need liming.
Tobacco growers are supposed to take soil samples to Aret for PH testing for free.