Some tobacco farmers in Mzimba and Rumphi have said they will stop growing the crop due to meagre proceeds.
Speaking at an interface meeting, organised by their newly formed union, the farmers disclosed that growing of the leaf is leaving them more impoverished than they’d be without investing their resources in it.
David Chirwa, a seasoned tobacco farmer who has been in the service for over fifteen years, described the new ‘contract system’ employed by most tobacco buyers as a daylight robbery to the ‘poor’ farmers.
“It’s better to withdraw and let those companies do the work; it’s not in order for a farmer to spend time growing tobacco and later earn less. This is disgusting,” said Chirwa.
Tinkho Muyaba, interim chairperson of Concerned Tobacco growers Union, stressed that unless government intervenes to scrap off the ‘contract system,’ farmers will be wooed to venture into other crops like Soya.
“It’s not on. Imagine toiling for a year and earning Mk100,000. The rest being earned by a tobacco company. This is nuisance. We’re not their slaves,” he fumed.
Tobacco is, as the farmers say, one of the most difficult and demanding crops to grow as it requires close monitoring from nursery up until it is sold.
“It is one of the most agonizing crop to grow. We spend sleepless nights. It’s an insult, therefore, to be taken for granted by these tobacco companies,” added Jeremiah Chihana, farmer from Kanyenjere, Rumphi.
Their meeting followed series of awareness campaigns the tobacco commission has been running across the northern region, wooing farmers to produce more leaf this year, claiming there will be good prices and a guaranteed market.
Tobacco is termed as Malawi’s green gold: it contributes a Lion’s share to the country’s economy.