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Information gap impacting on tobacco quality

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By Chimwemwe Mangazi:

Controller of Agriculture Services in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Alexander Bulirani, has said there is need for extension workers to work hand-in-hand with the Agriculture Research and Extension Trust (Aret) to disseminate good agriculture practices among tobacco farmers.

Bulirani was speaking in Lilongwe on Friday during a field day which Aret organised.

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He said collaboration would boost tobacco earnings in the wake of declining trends for the crop on the global market.

Bulirani noted that there is a gap in terms of transferring technologies to smallholder farmers as Aret does not reach out to all farmers with information and monitoring services during all processes of tobacco production.

“Aret has vacancies and, as such, they do not have the staff complement which they would have loved to have but what the government can do is to assist Aret using its own people, its own network by training extension workers on tobacco production to close this information gap between the farmers and Aret,” Bulirani said.

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Aret Board Chairperson, Reuben Maigwa, said the challenge is exacerbated by farmers who deliberately ignore agronomic practices of the crop which results in low yields and low quality of the leaf.

“We encourage farmers to prepare the land in time and prepare nurseries in time, harden them so that when the rains come they should be ready for transplanting. But most of the farmers prefer the traditional way of growing tobacco which impacts on the output,” Maigwa said.

Tobacco is Malawi’s major foreign exchange earner. Last year, the country realised $336 million from the sale of 202 million kilogrammes of the green gold.

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