Japanese tobacco buyers, JTI, is blaming tobacco farmers for breach of contract, saying they overgrew tobacco and in some instances smuggled in the leaf from outside the country.
Corporate affairs manager Limbani Kakhome said the tobacco farmers overgrew their tobacco by 1.2 million kilograms.
“They produced more tobacco than what we agreed on. Some of them even smuggled in tobacco from neighbouring counyries. There was manipulation of the yields,” he said.
Kakhome said next year, the company will use GPS technology to track down on tobacco yields to ensure that tobacco farmers do not over grow the leaf.
“We will now have to use the GPS technology to monitor tobacco fields so that tobacco farmers do not overgrow tobacco, to ensure that there was no manipulation of the yields,” he said.
He said the company discovered that some farmers did not abide by the contract agreement which specified the number of hectares they needed to grow tobacco.
JTI angered tobacco farmers and the Tobacco Control Commission when a few weeks ago it refused to buy more tobacco, saying the tobacco farmers breached their contract by growing more tobacco than those agreed upon.
“On average we paid 15% above the market price because JTI growers delivered high quality tobacco. In addition, we bought more than our required volume targets by 1.2million kgs” said Kakhome.
According to Kakhome, JTI growers fetched on average $1.87 per kilogram. He then thanked growers for their ongoing loyalty, emphasizing that JTI’s long-term commitment to tobacco growing in Malawi and partnership with contracted growers is “bearing good fruits”.
The Ministry of Agriculture and the regulator, Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) confirmed their support of JTI’sdecision to complete tobacco buying in Limbe, Chinkhoma, Lilongwe and finally in Mzuzu.