Tobacco farmers in the country should continue growing the leaf and not be disturbed by reports of a precarious future of the crop, the Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) has said.
TCC Chief Executive Officer Bruce Munthali said this on Sunday after inspecting tobacco nurseries around Embombeni in Mzimba north during which tour he encouraged farmers to prepare for quality harvests of the leaf, starting at nursery level.
“The country’s tobacco still has a future and farmers should disregard what is being said and work towards producing quality leaf and meeting the quotas that are being asked by buyers,” said Munthali.
“There are a lot of investments in the industry taking place the world over right now and looking at the value of such investments, one would not be left with the impression that there is no future for the leaf. Tobacco still has a future.”
The future of the tobacco industry, which contributes around 25 percent of total taxes and about 60 percent of the country’s total foreign exchange earnings, looks grim following new proposals from the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) which seeks to introduce stringent regulations for tobacco production around the world.
However, Munthali assured farmers that they will find markets for their produce but advised them to strive for quality leaf so that they end up earning more from the tobacco sales.
He said demand for the various types of tobacco produced in the country keep on being revised, saying current figures show industry requirements for barley tobacco at between 150-160 million kilogrammes while that for flue cured tobacco is at 18-20 million kilogrammes.
Demand for dark fired tobacco is at around 6 million kilogrammes, according to Munthali.
“Farmers just need to produce the best leaf and that starts from the nursery. What I have seen is impressive and I have particularly been heartened by some farmers who are setting up tree nurseries to rehabilitate the environment compromised by the industry.”
One of the farmers whose nurseries Munthali toured, Eric Tembo, hailed TCC’s visits, saying such engagements with the farmers at the earliest stage of tobacco production were encouraging in the production of quality leaf.
Tembo, who owns Mawelera farm, said he will continue growing tobacco because he has benefited a lot from production of the crop.
“Tobacco is a profitable business and I have seen it as such even when so many farmers complained that buyers were not forthcoming with good prices,” said Tembo.