By Chimwemwe Mangazi:
The Malawi tobacco industry faces the risk of compromised leaf quality next season following an influx of uncertified tobacco seed on the market, The Daily Times can reveal.
This is likely to compromise output and revenue of the country’s single top export crop.
Last week, police in Kasungu District arrested five people who were found selling fake tobacco seed.
The Daily Times investigations have shown that some tobacco farmers in some parts of the country are buying the fake and uncertified seed imported from neighbouring countries.
During our investigations, we were able to purchase a four-grams packet of the seed, reportedly imported from Zimbabwe at K10,000.
Five grams of locally certified seed is being sold at K7,000.
Our source, who opted for anonymity, said some of the vendors selling seed from Zimbabwe are former employees of some local tobacco buying companies.
In a telephone conversation setting up the purchase of the seed, the trader confirmed to be importing the seed from Zimbabwe.
“I cannot cheat you my brother; preparing a nursery means you have put all your investments there and cheating would be tantamount to murder. The seed is really coming from Zimbabwe,” the trader said.
Malawi Police Service said it is aware of the situation and is investigating the matter.
Agriculture Research and Extension Trust (Aret) Chief Executive Officer, Andy Khumbanyiwa, said Aret has not certified any trader to be importing and selling tobacco seed.
“We are taking the matter seriously and we are engaging the police.
“We are yet to find out exactly what their sources are. First, it was in Kasungu where this was happening so we did some investigations, involved the police and five people were arrested,” Khumbanyiwa said.
Aret sells tobacco seed through Tobacco Association of Malawi offices, Agriculture Trading Company shops and field extension staff.
Tobacco buying firms also supply seed directly to contracted tobacco farmers.
Tobacco industry regulator, the Tobacco Control Commission (TCC), has since said it is working on containing the situation.
TCC Chief Executive Officer, Kaisi Sadala, described the situation as sad and detrimental to the industry.
“The culprits should be taken to task as this act is illegal. The laws of the country prohibit the use of uncertified tobacco seeds and this malpractice compromises the quality of our tobacco,” Sadala said.
Meanwhile, TCC has provided space at all its outlets where certified Aret seed is sold for growers to register for production quotas.