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Tobacco output to jump to 170 million kg

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Limbani Kakhome

The Tobacco Commission (TC) has said it has registered tobacco growers who are expected to grow 170 million kilogrammes (kg) of the green gold this year.

TC Chief Executive Officer Joseph Chidanti Malunga told Times Business on the sidelines of the National Tobacco Conference that the expected tobacco output is 10 million kg more than the 160 million kg which growers were registered to produce last year.

Chidanti Malunga could, however, not indicate the amount demanded by international buyers, describing it as a competition issue which is not supposed to be disclosed.

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Controller of Agriculture Technical and Extension Services Alfred Mwenifumbo has urged stakeholders to consider having mega farms in agriculture as one way of boosting output and quality.

Mwenifumbo described the conference as significant, saying it helps stakeholders in the industry look back at the previous season as well as plan ahead.

On the new Tobacco Bill, Mwenifumbo said the ministry is consolidating views from industry players raised during the November 3 meeting so that they take into consideration views of industry players.

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Commenting on the issue of mega farms in the tobacco industry, JTI Corporate Affairs Director Limbani Kakhome said, while it is a welcome idea, it is also important to look at how the law is structured.

“From a tobacco industry perspective, we should look at how the law is structured. You will see that the current law and proposed amendments are restricting players into certain silos. For example, if you are a buyer, you cannot grow. If you are a grower, you cannot transport.

“I believe that if we look at our Constitution, which promotes liberal economics, we should also look to say our current law should encourage investments across the value chain. You normally grow in the value chain that you are accustomed to. These are the people that have the know-how, the access and they can deliver as they used to do before,” Kakhome said.

Tobacco remains Malawi’s top single foreign exchange earner. However, over the years, earnings from the crop have significantly dropped due to, among other things, the global anti-smoking campaign.

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