Tobacco Growers Cry Over Rising Cost of Production
Commercial tobacco growers have presented to government issues which they feel if addressed, will promote the industry and, most importantly, the country’s economy.
They made the presentation before agriculture minister, Lobin Lowe, and Tobacco Commission Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Joseph chidanti Malunga, during a closed-door meeting in Blantyre on Wednesday
Among others, they seek government’s intervention on low tobacco prices, access to loans and high cost of production.
One of the growers, Nicholas Thorneycroft, said if left unchecked, the issues will affect negatively the sector.
He said it is surprising that the same leaf goes at about US$6 in Zimbabwe yet they are selling it at US$ 4 in Malawi.
The growers have also bemoaned high cost of electricity and diesel for production and they have asked government to consider subsidies the way other countries do.
"If the issues are not addressed, viability of commercial operation lies in between because our prices are not bettering themselves each and every year and inflation keeps increasing dramatically. Fuel and fertilizer prices also keep increasing," he said.
In response, Lowe said that his ministry “will discuss with ministry of energy to consider subsidy for electricity and diesel for the growers.
“We will also explore windows to bring in more buyers in the country to increase competition on the market. That way will help farmers to sell their tobacco at a good price.”
Lowe added that his ministry will also engage the Agriculture Commercialization (AGCOM) Project and the Malawi Agriculture and Industrial Investment Corporation (MAIIC) to help the farmers with loans.
The minister vowed that the country will not abolish tobacco farming despite challenges such as low production and global anti-smoking campaign.