As tobacco marketing season nears the end, Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) says the estimates show that, tentatively, farmers still have 25 million kilogrammes of tobacco.
TCC Chief Executive Officer, Albert Changaya, told Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development that the commission is equally concerned about the situation and trying to ensure that the remaining leaf is sold.
Changaya said TCC knows that it is costly and risky for the farmers to continue keeping this year’s tobacco for 2017 marketing season as fumigating the leaf is expensive and buying companies are skeptical to buy tobacco from the preceding season.
He said the commission is still discussing with stakeholders in the tobacco sector, including Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development before setting up the dates for season closure.
“Even if we decide to close some markets, Limbe Auction Floors, for example, we will still allow farmers to go and sell at other auction floors such as Kanengo. It is the wish of TCC to ensure that all tobacco is sold because we know the hustles that farmers go through if excess tobacco is not sold.
“We are hopeful that maybe by the end of October, we should be able to conclude the marketing,” Changaya said.
As in recent years, farmers have experienced a lot of challenges in selling their tobacco and this year heaps of tobacco remain in farmers’ compounds.
Some farmers under Integrated Production System (IPS) or contract farming are also facing the same calamity after companies they are in contract with only bought the amount of tobacco equivalent to the loans for inputs farmers accessed forcing them to go for now unreliable auction.
Currently, contract farming gets 80 percent market share while auction farming gets 20 percent of the share.
Asked on whether t h e commission is planning to completely kill off the auction market or not, Changaya said TCC has no plans to stop auction market.
“We cannot allow auction farming to die because there are other companies that are still buying through auction. Moreover, auction market was established under an act of Parliament and we cannot just come and stop it,” he said.
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