JTI Malawi has come under fire for abusing tobacco farmers under contract farming.
The company has been condemned for refusing to buy tobacco from farmers whom it entered into contracts with.
JTI stopped buying the leaf from its contract farmers on Monday with managing director Fries Venneste telling the Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) that the company had met its trade requirements.
The tobacco regulator however encouraged JTI to continue buying tobacco from the farmers who signed contracts with the company.
“It is only once you have completed that assignment that the TCC will consider allowing JTI to pull out of the market,” the regulator said.
TCC boss Kaisi Sadala told the local press that they will ensure that the company meet its contractual obligations.
Commenting on the issue, Social commentator Onjezani Kenani said JTI and other tobacco companies are abusing farmers as the growers have now become the companies’ tenants yet a few years ago growers used to be millionaires.
“Alimi angosanduka ma tenant a makampani when they used to be independent millionaires even as late as 2012 when the Integrated Production System (IPS) was adopted by the government to allow contract marketing as a parallel system to auction.,” he said.
Kenani also noted that tobacco companies are lobbying for the abolition of the auction system of selling tobacco and 100 percent adoption of contract farming which will expose farmers to more abuses from the buyers.
“Tobacco buyers, however, want a contract marketing system in which each grower should be attached to one company without competition with other buyers. They want tobacco to be delivered directly to their factories without going through the auction floors where there is refereeing and various independent observers. That would certainly be retrogressive and would undermine tobacco as a strategic crop for Malawi,” he said.
Apart from JTI, five other companies buy tobacco in Malawi. They are Limbe Leaf, Alliance One, Malawi Leaf, Premium Tama and Associated Tobacco Company.