By Tionge Kasolota, MANA
Government has urged tobacco farmers in the country to consider crop diversification in the face of the tobacco industry facing challenges of dwindling market at global level.
Controller of Agriculture Services in the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr Alexander Bulirani made the call on Tuesday in Mangochi when he officially opened Tobacco Association of Malawi (TAMA) Diversification Challenges workshop.
Tobacco producers, buyers and cigarette manufacturing companies from Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, Argentina and Portugal were among the participants of the workshop.
Bulirani challenged the participants to critically unearth, digest and share lasting solutions to the challenges facing the industry.
“Malawi Government’s heart is on tobacco because the crop brings almost half of the country’s forex which boosts our economy.
“Your discussions, therefore, need to be in-depth so that you should come up with possible solutions to the problems which you face,” said Bulirani.
He emphasized on the need for the workshop to find measures to deal with the challenges in the industry at the time the international market is slowly but surely squeezing the crop out of the market.
Reserve Bank of Malawi Governor, Dr. Dalitso Kabambe who was among the speakers at the regional workshop, concurred with the Controller of Agriculture Services on the need to seriously embark on crop diversification.
He said the demand for tobacco at global level was dwindling and expressed fear that in the near future, the farmers would have nothing to rely on if they do not diversify.
“In 2010, the World Health Organization (WHO) decided to reduce global cigarette use by 30.3 per cent by 2025 and now the global cigarettes use has dropped by 11 per cent,” said Kumbambe.
“By 2032 it is projected to go further down by 40 per cent and with this, I concur with the diversification agenda,” he added.
Kumbambe described tobacco as “an extremely important crop to Malawi’s economy” as it contributes 25 per cent to the country’s revenue pool and that the crop directly or indirectly benefits around six million people in the country.
TAMA President, Albel Masache Banda described the workshop as crucial, saying it would accord local delegates a platform to interact with their international counterparts to bring solutions to the problems they encounter in the industry.
Banda concurred with Bulirani and Kumbambe, saying diversification remained a plausible solution given the low prices that Malawi farmers face in tobacco markets coupled with overproduction and overstaying of the crop at the market.
The workshop is held under the theme The Farmer, Now and Tomorrow-the Quest for Improved Livelihoods.