As tobacco farmers readies for opening of the Malawi’s tobacco marketing season on April 8, many farmers continue speaking against the Integrated Production System which they feel government has imposed on them.
Farmers in various parts of the country including those under Lilongwe West Agricultural Extension Area told Nyasa Times that they are very worried with the new system of buying their green gold than the normal means which they created competition among the buyers.
“What happens in the new system is that when you have signed a contract with a tobacco buying company you don’t negotiate for better prices which means that the same company will buy you that tobacco even if the price is very low. This has been our major concern all along,” said one farmer in Lilongwe.
A presentation on Tobacco Production and Market Review Policies by the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development at the 2014 Tobacco Industry Annual Seminar confirms that IPS has a number of problems.
The paper says the system lacks transparency in loan portfolios. For example the tobacco buying companies are free to charge farmers any interests on the farm inputs given.
A farmer in Dowa told Nyasa Times that they charge us K30, 000 on each bag of fertilizer which cost K16, 000 on a conventional market.
“This is a day light robbery where in Malawi is a bag of fertilizer wealth that price, that is why we are saying let’s go back to our auction system of buying tobacco,” said the Farmer.
The paper says with IPS tobacco farmers’ experience “high bank interest rates, exchange rates and high insurances, and that there is reduced competition among the buyers this result in farmers getting low prices especially when demand is low to attract higher prices.”
In a separate interview three members of Parliament confirmed to Nyasa Times that Malawi government hurried to endorse IPS which has now turned tobacco farmers as beggars.
Agricultural Parliamentary Committee chairperson who is also Malawi Congress Party (MCP) spokesperson on agricultural matters Felix Jumbe told Nyasa Times that currently his committee is investigating on the public outcry in regards to IPS.
Jumbe who is also former President of Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) said his committee has received a lot of complaints from the tobacco.
“We cannot just woke up and condemn the system. We are supposed to carry out our own independent verification exercise to find pros and cons of the system and then write a report to government on our position,” said Jumbe.
But a member of the same committee Ntchisi based Member of Parliament Nkhosa Kamwendo did not hide his outburst.
“The system is just there to steal from the farmers and they share the proceeds, as MP my job is to protect my people in my constituency who survives in farming but if my people are being reaped off in a day light robbery then I am failing my duty,” said Kamwendo.
Another MP Boniface Kadzamira said it is unfortunate that government is failing to protect its farmers by allowing this system.
“Although I am not a member of the agriculture committee in Parliament but this system is unfriendly to our tobacco farmers,” said Kadzamira.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :