By: Eric Nantchengwa
President Peter Mutharika has demanded fair tobacco prices from buyers and urged farmers to sell uncompromising leaf.
The sentiments were made on Wednesday in Lilongwe Auction Floors during the official opening of the 2016 Tobacco season.
During the opening day, the green gold was selling at a minimum price of 80 cents and a maximum price of $1.84 per kg.
President Mutharika emphasized that for many years buyers start buying the leaf at a good minimum price but they usually change without sounding reasons.
“This marks another milestone in the economy of our country as I have officially opened the 2016 tobacco selling season. Tobacco is a very serious matter. It has been the life of our economy, our life. More than ever, our tobacco industry faces challenges we have never known before.
There are challenges we must face and conquer together. Government will create better regulation of the industry, provide affordable fertilizer for the farmers and protect our farmers by investing in drought and climate change mitigation,” stated Mutharika.
He hinted that this year, government will set aside standard price to followed by buyers.
He explained, “Let me address our tobacco buyers. We want fair prices every year, we always agree on pricing and yet you always abandon our agreement. This year, we told you to suggest the minimum prices yourselves. And we took them. I did that deliberately. I am a democrat who likes dialogue. But you should also know that a person who doesn’t listen is not worth listening to.
Listen to us! I know you have the integrity and honesty to keep your own word. We respect you as investors and that you are important to our economy. But we will not respect any exploiters among you. Investing in a country is not exploiting the country. We understand the difficult international market forces you have to contend with. But we will neither understand nor forgive tax evasions.”
Mutharika however advised tobacco growers to sell good leaf so that they realize enough money for their sweat and in the long run don’t scare the buyers.
In his remarks, the Malawi leader stressed that government will soon introduce a fertilizer making factory to ease the burden that pitch farmers when buying farm inputs.
He further described the Tobacco Act as outdated and advised the Justice Minister and Agriculture Minister to look closely into the issue.