By Gloria Masanza**
Malawi tobacco buyer Universal Leaf has promised to increase its investment in the industry in order to ensure that growers get the most out of their leaf.
Gary Taylor, Universal Leaf Regional Director for Africa made the pledge when officials of the company met Malawi President Peter Mutharika in Washington DC in the USA.
Taylor’s remarks come following the President’s request for tobacco buying companies to increase the level of investment in Malawi by among other things embarking on research so as to identify problem areas in the tobacco industry.
Taylor said Universal Leaf wants to work with the Malawi government to ensure that the leaf that comes out is of the highest quality.
“We are following with keen interest the strides that have taken place in the economy, which are well-thought and are wisely implemented,” he said.
“These new measures are providing for us a lot more stability and predictability on the tobacco market and also to our customers as they are also able to predict the kind of product to expect from us.
During the meeting Mutharika requested for an increased quota of Malawi tobacco on the US market, a request Taylor said that was worth exploring as “it helps the country to increase its export base”.
“Malawi has all the stars that are favourable on the market, and we call on burley farmers not to relent on the production of the leaf, but improve on the quality so as to attract a bigger market,” Taylor added.
The Universal Leaf Regional Director said the company will also work with Malawi to improve sustainability of the forests that exists adding that currently Malawi has fallen behind in terms of forestry management.
At the meeting Mutharika, appealed to tobacco buyers to support Malawi tobacco sector, by among other promoting diversification programmes so that tobacco farmers produce with agricultural enterprises, such as maize, soya beans, peanuts, including livestock.
“As a country we want you assistance in the promotion of sound environmental management practices such as reforestation, water conservation such as dams and borehole construction for irrigation and domestic water use,” the Malawi leader said.
The 2014-2015 tobacco marketing season is currently in progress and the country expects to produce 181,000,000 kg of tobacco, of which 154,000,000 kg is burley, while 25,800,000 kg is flue cured and 1,600,000 kg is dark fire cured tobacco.
**The author of this article is the Presidential Press Officer.