Reform tobacco industry for the benefit of growers in Malawi

The Civil Society Agriculture Network (Cisanet) recommendation for government to suspend the integrated production system (IPS) and return to the auction system in tobacco value chain should be taken seriously. Since government allowed tobacco buyers to be using farmers to grow tobacco in what is termed as integrated production system (IPS), tobacco growers have been getting a raw deal.

 Mzuzu tobacco auction floors

Mzuzu tobacco auction floors

This system has worked to the advantage of the buyers who control the growers. As the Civil Society Agriculture Network (Cisanet) National Director TamaniNkhono-Mvula has rightly noted the “framework gives more marketing controlling powers to the buyers while reducing farmers to mere tenants.”

Tobacco growers have been deluded into thinking that the system works to their advantage just because tobacco buyers give them farm inputs and give them first priority to sell their tobacco. But they are oblivious of hidden costs such as transport, not to mention other adverse factors such as weather. The reality is that many tobacco farmers end up spending more than what they are given.When one includes other issues such as deductions, low prices, inflation, currency fluctuations, unfavorable contract conditions farmers are hit below the belt because all these conspire to work against the growers.

In the event that the farmers fail to repay the loans due to factors beyond their control the loan is not written off and so farmers become indebted to tobacco buyers.At the end of the day, tobacco buyers are the ones who benefit, not to mention the contract which farmers are made to sign without understanding it.

The picture that emerges is that tobacco farmers are working for tobacco buyers. The system is not different from the current tenancy system that government is trying to discourage. It is just that the other system is refined because farmers get assistance from buyers.

Nkhono-Mvula is right when he asserts that if the “IPS continues to be administered in its current form, the tobacco buying companies will completely take over the control of tobacco market value chain as they currently seem to have powers in determining who produces tobacco in the country”.

Government needs to move swiftly to stop the system. It should not be suspended, but stopped altogether for the benefit of tobacco farmers. In fact, it was not a good idea to allow tobacco buyers to be involved in growing tobacco. The IPS is benefitting the buyers more than the growers because of it is rigged (among other disadvantages). For example, tobacco farmers exclusively sell tobacco to buyers just because they got farm inputs.

Farmers have complained for too long about getting a raw deal from buyers but the problems are far from over. Why should buyers always be allowed to have an upper hand?It is high time the Ministry of Agriculture, the Tobacco Control Commission and other interest groups reformed the tobacco industry for the benefit of farmers.

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5 thoughts on “Reform tobacco industry for the benefit of growers in Malawi”

  1. Baba says:

    Tamani and CISANET:

    You have just done the right thing. Farmers have been reduced to tenants on their own land. We have a lot that is going and trying to support the IPS. Unfortunately the IPS remains a vehicle for oppression and exploitation by the tobacco buyers, input suppliers, financial institutions and big kahunas who are in transport sector such as Bright Msaka and Nyandule at Ministry of Agriculture, irrigation and Water Development.

    The whole concept of freedom of farmers is in shambles with IPS. Farmers cannot shop around for cheap sources of agricultural inputs such as seeds, fertilizer and credit. The framers of the system will always use curbing child labour and quality control as the advantages of the system. I think we have alternative strategies of achieving this output. The companies which used to supply inputs to Zimbabwe white farmers are now supplying inputs to the IPS at exorbitant prices.

    TCC has been reduced to a mockery. It only controls the farmers and not the buyers. Do you know the the tobacco value chain is a viscous circle? Without addressing the needs and concerns of the farmers you have whole system out.

    1. Austin says:

      The whole industry needs to reviewed holistically. What happened in 201617 season has never happened before. Can you believe there is still tobacco in the shades now, yet to be sold? When will growers buy inputs? There are m major stakeholders in the tobacco industry: the grower, the buyer and , government. Who has not done what to put farmers at this point of desperation?

  2. patriot says:

    This system is really a bad for the development of the country .Farmers are currently very poor and worse as they were before. Look till this october some farmers are yet to sell their tobacco because the buyers only bought few bales for loan recovery and rest is left to farmers. Farmers are reaped off even by their alangizi they demand alot of money from farmers. The stickers where registration number is written are being sold at 1500 yet they were at 100 just last year. Unless this system is abolished Malawian farmers will be poor than ever before. Peter govt is full thieves

  3. alfred abraham says:

    It is too absurd for the buyer to grow tobacco and buy it himself because panopa ma buyers akuapanga alimi kukhala ma tenant awo zomwe zili zosabvomerezeka

  4. Mwenelupemphe says:

    Tobacco industry will be killed if we dont push in MCP into Govt …………………. they are the ones who know how these things are managed for the betterment of growers. Amalawi tulo njwiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii mpaka munthu kuchoka ku america kudzatilamula kuno

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