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‘Research needed on farmers’ plight’

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Speaker of Parliament Catherine Gotani Hara, who is also MP for Mzmba North East Constituency, has called on stakeholders in the tobacco industry to investigate the welfare of farmers as a step towards protecting them from any forms of ills they encounter.

Hara said this over the weekend during a media tour of some tobacco farms in her constituency organised by one of the tobacco buying companies, JTI Leaf Malawi.

She said farmers were raising concerns which needed to be ironed out through joint interventions.

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“There are a number of issues we have had from the farmers. Recently one of our [parliamentary] committees went round looking into similar issues but it is something that we cannot address in a day.

“We need to have candid discussions with the farmers and all stakeholders in the industry,” she said.

She singled out concerns by farmers over what they call having their loan facilities quoted in dollars, miss-grading of their leaf and elevated cost of tobacco transportation to markets.

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JTI Malawi Corporate Affairs and Communications Director Limbani Kakhome maintained that tobacco growing was profitable for the farmers.

“The problem comes in when the farmers are not getting optimum yield from their practice,” Kakhome said.

Tobacco remains the country’s major foreign exchange earner; however, the industry has been declining both in production and earnings.

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