Stakeholders in the tea industry have agreed that the sector is due for reforms for it to remain profitable while providing reasonable benefits to investors, employees and farmers.
During a conference held last week under a Tea Industry Revitalisation Programme of the Tea Association of Malawi (Taml), various stakeholders agreed that industry players have to change the way they have been doing other things for the sake of their sustainability as well as that of the entire industry.
The meeting was aimed at looking for better ways on how to implement the revitalisation programme, especially on the issue of increasing the minimum and living wage of workers in the tea sector.
Taml chairperson Sangwani Hara said the meeting has looked at a proposed road map and agreed on the way forward.
He said as producers, they have brought to the table financing proposals in terms of what needs to be done in order to carry out the implementation of the living wage.
“The key issue is that as tea producers, we need to change our business plans to become more profitable in order to sustain the proposed wages. We have brought forward financing proposals in terms of the revitalising programme within our industry,” he said.
Hara said in the mean time, the sector will have to wait for the response to their proposals from the buyers.
“The buyers are the ones who determine the tea prices on the market. We have given them our proposals and they have said they will come back to us in the next six months,” said Hara.
“From there we should be able to map our way forward which will determine how fast the programme can be implemented,” he said.
IDH country manager for Malawi, Daisy Kambalame — who represented buyers at the meeting, said the revitalisation programme will look at issues that will help to sustain trade.
She said as partners, they are keen to ensure that the investments that are being made are also addressing developmental challenges.
“Tea is the biggest employer especially in Thyolo and Mulanje districts; hence we would like to see poverty levels reduced in these areas through better living wages. We would like to see a vibrant and successful tea sector in Malawi,” she said.
Plantation and Agriculture Workers Union of Malawi president, Greyson Khembo, said it is the wish of the workers to see their living standards improve.
“We simply want employers to pay us better wages and we have requested the buyers at this meeting to improve tea prices so that workers are getting good wages,” said Khembo.