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Tama backs tenancy system

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The Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama) has warned that abolishment of the tenancy system may inconvenience farmers, raise operation costs and negatively affect business operations.

Tama Director of marketing, Felix Thole, said this in Mzuzu over the weekend when the association held its annual area meeting.

Tama’s sentiments come after the government, through the Ministry of Labour, has condemned the system, describing it as “modern day slavery”.

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Anti-tenancy system proponents blame the system for contributing to the problem of child labour, which is said to be rampant among tobacco farmers.

But Thole maintains great strides have been made in the industry to safeguard the rights of tenants’ children

In the wake of increased land disputes across the country, Tama says the move would lead to a humanitarian crisis on the ground that the majority of tenants lost pieces of land to relatives in their districts of origin.

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“The tenancy system is well established. What we need is streamlining it in order to deal away with the bad elements. This is for the good of the farmers and also the workers,” Thole said.

With market dynamics changing daily in the tobacco industry, Thole said farmers can bank on the long established rapport with their tenants in times of bad sales.

“Let’s face it; tobacco farming is a serious venture and involves a number of risks. And having to employ different people now and again is not very practical,” Thole said.

Without delving much into the matter in his comment, Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) acting Chief Executive Officer, David Luka, said the commission is obliged to protect farmers’ interests at all times.

He then disclosed that, effective the 2016/2017 agriculture year, the commission would be announcing minimum tobacco prices in good time to ensure proper planning for farmers.

“We had a concern that announcement of minimum prices for tobacco buyers is ill-timed and, so, we have worked on that anomaly,” Luka said.

Luka said the measure would help stakeholders avoid challenges such as overproduction, which contributed to the high rejection rate at the auction floors last season.

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