Farmers want to be allowed to get fertilizer on loan from tobacco companies

Chihana (C) and Kakhome (L) at Madise Health Centre

Farmers in Mzimba have asked Parliament to amend the Tobacco Act to allow tobacco companies to provide loans to tobacco farmers for production of crops such as maize, saying  tobacco farmers have no access to fertilizer under Affordable Inputs Program (AIP) and they cannot afford to buy fertilizer on their own due to high prices .

Under the Tobacco  Act of 2019, tobacco buying companies are prohibited from providing loans to farmers for production of crops other than tobacco.

Last week,  JTI Leaf Malawi Limited  visited its farmers at Madise Health Centre and Malida Primay School in Mzimba, a district where Speaker of National Assembly Catherine Gotani is one of the legislators.

One of the JTI Leaf Malawi  growers Hendrix Mwanza told Hara that the future of maize production is unpredictable because they cannot afford fertilizer unlike in the past when JTI Leaf Malawi used to give them farm inputs on loan.

Gotani Hara

Mwanza added that  the contract growers do not have access to AIP as such it is difficult them to buy the fertilizer hence government should look into the matter as soon as possible.

In her response, Speaker of Parliament Catherine Gotani Hara said that the  Ministry of Agriculture  and Tobacco Commission are mandated to look into the matter and after that the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture will look into the same issue  because it takes a long process .

“It is very default for me to say if there is a bill to amend the law or not, because officially it  has not been presented  to parliament. We as  Members of Parliament  are supposed to  represent farmers  as people who are in our constituencies. In this case, l am not aware if the agriculture committee has moved those issues to the relevant stakeholders. But be assured that once the issue presented in parliament, we are going to discuss it,” she said.

On his part, Member of  Parliament  for Mzimba North constituency Yeremiah Chihana told  his people to be well prepared for the farming season to buy  fertilizer because there is low chances of accessing fertilizer under AIP.

Chihana said that the 10,000 metric tonnes of fertilizer that  has been bought will  not be enough as such farmers are encouraged to use other methods of farming as such application of manure.

“The truth is that government is broke, it doesn’t have money so please use other alternatives,” he said.

Chihana then commended JTI for constructing modern houses for the staff at Madise health centre .

“l am short of words ,l am therefore asking you take good care of this and please l do not want to hear about any crime ,no one should never be found of stealing drugs,” he said.

JTI Leaf Malawi Corporate Affairs and Communications Director Limbani Kakhome said that it is their wish that the Members of Parliament support the bill  to amend the Tobacco Act because despite promoting tobacco farming, they also promote the other crops which helps farmers to have enough food.

“Good agriculture practices requires you  to grow tobacco in rotation with other crops. We don’t want our growers to rely on tobacco only but other crops as well,” he said.

Apart from constructing house at Madise Health Centre, JTI Leaf Malawi also built classrooms at Chilida Primary which has improved enrollment of leaners from 400 pupils to 699.

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