Government on Wednesday vowed not to engage tobacco buyers in a battle or intimidate them in the subsequent tobacco marketing seasons over prices.
Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Food Security Ulemu Chilapondwa said this in Lilongwe in an interview on the sidelines of his tour of Lilongwe Auction Floors.
“If you want to encourage buyers, you have to create a good environment for them by negotiating and not intimidating them. This will be the spirit that the Joyce Banda administration will take,” Chilapondwa said.
Tobacco buyers have for the past years been subjected to a barrage of insults and criticisms, championed by former president Bingu wa Mutharika, who was accusing them of sabotaging the tobacco industry by offering poor prices at the auction floors.
Mutharika, who at times branded the buyers as “inhuman and colonialists”, at one point deported some buyers, accusing them of ignoring minimum prices for tobacco which he set during the opening of the tobacco selling season.
But setting an apologetic and cooperative tone, Chilapondwa said time had gone for government and buyers to engage in a tussle but rather work together for the betterment of the ordinary growers and the tobacco industry as a whole.
Added the deputy minister: “We will have an attitude of bringing the issues on the table and when there will be some bitter pills to swallow, those issues will have to be negotiated.”
He, however, commended the 2012 tobacco marketing season which he said has been characterised by the stability in the marketing of tobacco and also good prices.
Chilapondwa said gone are the days when tobacco growers were offered lower prices which, he said, frustrated tobacco farming by many growers.
“We saw today that prices are hitting as high as $2.70 for auction system and $2.45 or even $2.65 for contract sales. What I have seen is good quality tobacco which I urge the farmers to continue offering in the next seasons,” added the deputy minister.
In a separate interview, the Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) chief executive officer Dr. Bruce Munthali said the cordial relationship between buyers and government this year has helped calm the tobacco sales and said the situation will help to ensure timely closure of tobacco markets.
“As TCC, we are also advocating for harmony between tobacco buyers and growers, tobacco buyers and government and also between growers and government. This will enable a stable conduct of the tobacco market,” said Munthali.