JTI wants competitive Malawi tobacco: Wary of non-tobacco related materials

The Japanese tobacco company (JTI) has urged farmers to check their tobacco well before going for markets in order for farmers to fetch good price  as  Non-Tobacco Related Materials (NTRM) are found , a development that dents the image of most of the tobacco growers.

JTI boss Antonio Venencesla speaking to reporters

JTI boss Antonio Venencesla speaking to reporters

JTI corporate affairs and Communications Director, Antonio Venencesla was speaking in Lilongwe when a group of journalists toured the JTI Tobacco Factory in Kanengo industrial area on Wednesday.

Venencesla said it is very unfortunate to note that JTI finds a lot of NTRM in the tobacco bales.

Intermediate buyers who most of the times flood the markets when they have just been opened, have, over the years, been accused of not properly grading their leaf.

According to Venencesla, some of the NTRM found in the tobacco include; grass, plastics, stones, chicken feathers.

Some farmers were using stones and bags of sand to increase the weight of the bails.

“We are investing a lot in both human and machinery resources in making sure that we remove all the NTRM but this is not our job, farmers are supposed to make sure that they remove all these things before sending their tobacco on the market,” Said  Venencesla.

During the visit Nyasa Times saw used NTRM in the bales and in some instances some farmers were also using Juju or charms in their tobacco leaf.

“JTI is the only company which offers a very competitive price but we do encourage our farmers to bring us quality tobacco with no non tobacco materials, at JTI we believe that quality pays,” Said Venencesla.

During the tour JTI took members of the media round the factory where the media appreciated challenges which the company faces due to NTRM.

The media found a lot of workers who are indeed employed specifically to remove the foreign objects.

On tobacco prices and rejection rate, JTI said rejection is mainly done due to moisture and availability of NTRM.

“We appeal to you members of the press who speak with people out there to convey the message that quality pays, once the farmers have brought clean tobacco we will give them quite good price,” said Venencesla.

Recently, another group of journalists working under Media Network on Tobacco (MNB) toured AHL Holdings where the media appreciated challenges which farmers face in their course of their duty.

Some of the problems were that farmers were fetching low prices from their tobacco.

Malawi is facing  growing pressure emanating from the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC) guidelines which seek to abolish tobacco farming in the long run.

Accoridng to Tobacco Control Commission (TCC),  tobacco contributes about 25% contribution to Malawi’s gross domestic product (GDP) and employs up to 12% of the entire population.

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