The Minister of Agriculture, Lobin Clarke Lowe, has applauded TAMA Farmers’ Trust for complementing government efforts in campaigning for more production of tobacco in the next growing season, stressing that Malawi’s leaf remains in high demand across the borders.
Lowe made the remarks in Lilongwe on Thursday when he opened the 34th congress of TAMA Farmers’ Trust.
“We have a demand that we are failing to meet and farmers need to produce just enough to meet that demand. We can easily calculate the cost of opportunities lost this year by looking at the difference between demand and anticipated supply in relation to the price on the market,” he said.
However, Lowe emphasized the need for the farmers to diversify and add value to their produce. He expressed excitement that tobacco growers are now able to produce more than 1, 800 kilogrammes of the crop per hectare up from the ranges of 1, 000 kgs/ha.
Lowe said this is one good step in the right direction as improving productivity is key to diversification as it may allow for more land to be released to other crops whilst grower maintains the same tobacco weight produced but now on a smaller piece of land.
“Recent global events are teaching us that we need to intensify on value addition and stop exporting crop commodities in raw form. My ministry is working on an “agricultural and general crops act’ which will see improvements in the conduct of markets for all crops and encourage investments in production and value addition.
“Currently our Ministry is working tirelessly to finalize all agricultural related bills so that these legal instruments can help in guiding every stakeholder in their implementation of agricultural activities,” he narrated.
Lowe also disclosed that the Tobacco Industry Act of 2019 is currently going through a review process and consultations were completed such that it is expected to be discussed in parliament very soon.
He said the ministry noted that industry players, including TAMA, representing growers, were complaining about some sections in the act.
Lowe therefore assured delegates to the congress that the revised version will be farmer-friendly so that producers should not feel oppressed by the same laws meant to promote them.
“In this case, it will be the 2022/23 crop that will be produced and sold under the revised version of the law. I know as tobacco farmers you have your propositions and as a ministry will balance the propositions to allow every player in the tobacco value chain get what they deserve.
“Our Ministry is much aware of the negative publicity that tobacco receives globally, but as a country we know we are dealing with a legal crop whose trade is allowed worldwide. As such we will continue promoting this crop as it is very beneficial to our economy.
“We will also continue exploring developments of other crops and agricultural value chains to complement tobacco so that as a country we have our eggs placed in different baskets more especially having noted how climate change is impacting on farmers livelihoods.
“As the theme says, there is a need for diversification and value addition, which will allow our farmers to have a sustainable income throughout the year and not just wait for the April/May harvest period. Today, Pyxus Agriculture is here to highlight the strides they are making in diversification and value addition,” said Lowe.
In his remarks, TAMA Farmers’ Trust president Abiel Masache Kalima Banda thanked the government for the support it is providing to tobacco growers in Malawi.
Banda assured that the growers remain committed to producing the highest quality tobacco to attract the best prices on the market.