The 2021 tobacco marketing season has officially been opened by President Dr Lazarus Chakwera with a call for a permanent solution to the tendency by some stakeholders on charging dubious levies without the Ministry of Agriculture’s approval.

The Malawi leader was speaking in Lilongwe, after inspecting the tobacco sales at the Lilongwe Auction floors.

Dr Lazarus Chakwera urged the line Ministry to always engage all stakeholders in the industry to address some of the challenges the tobacco farmers are facing.

Among other things, the President has directed the Ministry of Agriculture to find more buyers as at the moment the industry has only nine buyers. Dr Chawera believes more buyers will bring competition on the market translating into better earnings for farmers.

President Chakwera has also urged farmers to engage in crop diversification to boost the country’s economy.

“As a starting point, I want a permanent solution to the malpractice by some stakeholders of charging farmers dubious levies that have not been approved by the Ministry of Agriculture. This must stop. It must stop because any senseless levies imposed on farmers increase the cost of production and decrease the farmer’s return.

“And a the tobacco industry in which every player can milk the system and boost profits at the expense of the farmer is not
something I will tolerate. A possible low hanging fruit in addressing this power imbalance is for the Ministry of Agriculture to work with the Tobacco Commission on ways of attracting more buyers beyond the nine we currently have. That way there is more competition and less monopolyamong buyers, because monopoly is one of the factors that contributes to the disempowerment of the farmers,” said Dr Chakwera.

Last year’s tobacco projection was 150 million kilograms. This year’s projection which is 120 kilograms is slightly lower and currently, the highest price is $2.20 and the lowest is $1.50.

This year’s tobacco marketing season has been opened under the theme: ‘Small Holder Grower, Pillar of Tobacco Industry.

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