Peter Mutharika warns tobacco buyers on low prices
President Peter Mutharika has warned tobacco buyers against exploiting farmers through low prices.
Speaking during the opening of the 2016 tobacco sales season in Lilongwe Wednesday, Mutharika said tobacco buyers have a tendency of offering better prices on the first day but change to lowest prices in subsequent days.
He said he would be carrying out emergency visits in various tobacco markets across the country to ensure that farmers are not abused.
“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,” Mutharika said.
Mutharika also demanded uncompromised quality of the leaf from farmers.
He said his government would not tolerate any tax evasion for any tobacco companies or investors whether local or international saying tax evasion is a serious offence and must stop forthwith.
“We understand the difficult international market forces you have to contend with. But we will neither understand nor forgive tax evasions. Tax evasion is criminal. Non-remittance of foreign exchange is criminal. Using bogus work permits to hijack Malawian jobs is criminal. Racism and segregating Malawians in the tobacco industry is simply unacceptable. This is Malawi!” he said.
Mutharika said the tobacco industry is facing a lot of challenges including the anti-smoking campaign and climate change effects but people need to join hands in dealing with such challenges.
He also admitted that the Tobacco Act is an outdated legislation that is failing to protect the interests of farmers and its review needs to be fast tracked.
“First things first: Regulate the industry more efficiently. The Tobacco Act is outdated, and a review was already conducted. Minister of Agriculture, and Minister of Justice – this is your call! Parliamentarians – here is your duty! We must regulate new developments such as the Integrated Production System (IPS) to support tobacco investors, protect quality and protect our farmers,” Mutharika said.
The President, who described tobacco farming as a serious matter to the economy, also warned tobacco growers association against exploiting farmers through high levies.
Mutharika said growers associations are there to add value to farmers’ lives not to steal from them.
He then warned the newly-appointed Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, George Chaponda, against complacency.
“By the way, Minister of Agriculture – are you here? Much policy direction and action on the tobacco industry, and food security, depends on the Ministry of Agriculture. You are the new broom with an old history of sweeping wherever you have been. Sweep that Ministry, or I will sweep you! Sweep the industry! I am told already some buyers are not happy with Dr. Chaponda’s appointment because they know what they are sitting on. There is much work to be done!” he said.
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