Malawi tobacco growers cautioned on ‘foreign elements’

Malawian tobacco farmers have been advised against adding external objects to their bales in a bid to fraudulently make more profits at the auction floors.

The advice was made Monday by President Bingu wa Mutharika at the official opening of the 2012 tobacco marketing season at Kanengo Auction Floors in Lilongwe.

The President observed that the addition of external elements in tobacco bales aimed at increasing weight to the bales and make extra profits had no benefits other than spoiling the quality of the leaf.

Tobacco auction in Llongwe

“Those things you add to bales such as stones, human hair, dogs’ teeth… will not do any good to your tobacco except for spoiling it. The best you can do to yield more and quality tobacco is just to follow what the agricultural extension workers advise you to do,” he said.

Added Mutharika: “I want you to bring to the floors properly graded tobacco that has no any foreign element so that buyers do not have a reason to reject it.”

President Mutharika, however, said he was delighted with this year’s tobacco quality despite numerous challenges farmers faced during the growing season.

“There were a number of challenges during the season like inadequate rains but despite that you have tried to care for your tobacco and I am happy with the quality,” he said.

Commenting on the global anti-smoking campaign, Mutharika assured the farmers that his government was putting in place means and ways of improving the tobacco industry.

He said his government was not worried with the campaign and urged the farmers not to get discouraged with it.

“There is this global anti-smoking campaign but in this same world, there are also other regions where there are chain smokers, that is our market,” he hinted.

One initiative, the President Said, was the construction of a tobacco cigarette processing factory in the country.

“In future, we want to have a big cigarette manufacturing factory in the country and we want everyone involved in the tobacco industry to take part, that is one way of dealing with the problem. Where there is a will there is a way so don’t get discouraged with these problems we are encountering,” Mutharika assured the farmers.

In his remarks, Chairperson of Auction Holdings Limited (AHL) Dr Charles Matabwa said his organisation will continue striving to safeguard the interests of all stakeholders in the tobacco industry especially farmers.

Malawi is this year expected to produce about 151 million kgs of tobacco down from about 237million kgs attained in the year 2011, which represents a 36 percent drop.

But the official opening on Monday was disturbed with protests by farmers who were against the low prices buyers were offering.  Security personnel had to chase out scores of growers from the Auction Floors in order to save the face of the president from embarrassment.

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