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Crop diversification is possible amid anti-tobacco campaign

MCHINJI-(MaraviPost)-Crop diversification is said to be leeway for Malawi amid heavy anti-tobacco campaign.

With crop diversification tobacco farmers are assured of less risks if prolonged dry spell and anti-the green gold campaign rage on.

This is the reason, one of the commercial tobacco firms; Gala Agriculture Limited intends venturing into Macadamia cropping in awake of dwindling of tobacco farming.

With 15 estates of each hector costing US$7,500 to produce about 3.3 million kilograms (15 estates) the remains skeptical on what future tobacco holds.

During the Media Network on Tobacco (MNT)’ tour in which Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) conducted on Friday, Gala Manager Ali Mulingo confessed that the green gold future remains uncertain hence the need to venture into others crops.

Mulingo predicts that with heavy ant-tobacco campaign if other farming alternative, some tenants of 3000 the company employs might lose their jobs.

The manager says the company is also on intensive tree planting exercise that each year ten hectors of land is covered with trees while promoting natural regeneration.

He therefore disputes any claims of child labour in the company saying any worker who engages children in their work are automatically fired.

“We are now into crop diversification looking at the state tobacco industry is showing. We want to sustain our tenants for a living. Currently, we are investing heavily on Macadamia which promises to give us productive business”, assures Mulingo.

Alfred Chauwa, MTN President lauded TCC for the tour saying it helped to exposed the media to understand better intensive commercial tobacco farming.

Chauwa assured the nation of total support towards the industry while it ventures into crop diversification with objective reporting.

TCC Principal Classifier Cecelia Kachifumbu said it was the mandate of the commission to expose the media to the industries that help them report effectively.

Kachifumbu therefore assured the entire media fraternity in the country for proper information on the tobacco industry.

During the trip, the media interacted with farmers, tenants on how tobacco is produced from the nursery till grading in readiness for the marketing season.

Early February, this year, TCC disclosed that the first round of crop [tobacco] assessment has been reduced to 12.8 percent below trade requirement.

This is against tobacco buyers’ need of 171 million kilogram for 2018 marketing season for the all kinds of tobacco.

The reduction has been necessitated by the prolonged dry spells affecting some districts in the southern and central region.

Figures from commission show that 42,303 farmers had registered to grow the leaf for 2017/2018 against 45,000 growers in 2016/2017 marketing season with a total registered quota of 169,785,243 million kilogrammes.

The registered quota is still lower than the 2018 buyer demand of 171 million kilogrammes.

Tobacco remains the country’s forex earner towards the Gross Domestic Products (GDP) towards national financial year plan.

However, the country’s final consolidated figures for 2017 tobacco earnings pegged at US$212 million

This is the summing gross collection statistics released by regulatory body, Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) saying the earnings surpass last year’s by 23 percent.

In 2016, a total of 194 million kilograms of tobacco was sold at an average of US$1.42 per kg in which the country realized US275 million.

This was a drop from US$362 million of 168 million kg of tobacco sold in 2015 whilst this year 107 million kilograms went through the auction. This represents a 45 percent increase in terms of volumes sold.

According TCC the average price for this year was US$1.99 which was better as compared to last year’s US$1.41 per kilogram.

The commission said from the US$212 million, flue cured tobacco contributed US$61 million, 19 percent up against last year’s US$45 million.

Burley tobacco fetched US$144 million from 81 million kilograms as compared to last year’s earnings of US$226 million from a total volume of 175 million kilograms.

This year’s tobacco marketing season is expected to be opened the second week April.

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