The Tobacco Commission says Malawi’s traditional tobacco buyers have assured the regulator they will continue buying the leaf, parrying fears surrounding the future of the country’s biggest forex earning cash crop.
Speaking at the Economics Association of Malawi (ECAMA) annual conference in Mangochi recently, Tobacco Commission Chief Executive Officer Dr. Joseph Chidanti-Malunga said none of Malawi’s buyers Malawi has signaled intentions to quit.
Dr. Chidanti-Malunga said there has been misconception of developments in the country’ tobacco industry due to lack of information and swore the leaf will remain at the top on the list of Malawi’s leading cash crops in the near foreseeable future.
“There is no single crop, at the moment and in the near foreseeable future, that can surpass the contribution that tobacco makes to the economy of this country,” Chidanti-Malunga told delegates at the ECAMA conference.
Tobacco contributes between 12 and 15% of the country’s GDP.
Recently, Malawi has been failing to meet buyers’ 140-million-kilogram demand for tobacco, prompting the Tobacco Commission to call for increased volumes of the leaf being grown by farmers in the country. However, in 2020, Malawi produced 114 million kilogrammes only while in the following year, production increased to 123 million kilogrammes, still some millions short of trade demand.
Dr. Chidanti-Malunga said people have been made to think there is dwindling buyer interest in the country’s tobacco yet it is simply new dynamics playing out.
“The Transformation in the tobacco industry has been misunderstood as signs of a dying industry.”
Among the changes in the tobacco industry around the world is the demand to protect the environment, eliminate child and force labour and tenancy.
In November 2019, the United States banned imports of Malawi’s tobacco over child labour involvement in the value chain. However, in July, 2020, the American government eased the ban following what it called a “rigorous evaluation” of social compliance and efforts to deal with forced labour from tobacco’s supply chain.
The Tobacco Commission CEO warned if Malawi does not comply with global demands with regard to environmental, social and governance issues, the country is poised to lose its demand quota to other countries such as Tanzania, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Meanwhile, the Tobacco Commission and Geneva-based Eliminating Child Labour in Tobacco Growing (ECLT) Foundation have signed a three-year Memorandum of Understanding to strengthen the fight against child labour in the tobacco industry in Malawi.
The MOU sets a framework for collaboration between the two institutions to contribute to Malawi’s National Action Plan for the Elimination of Child Labour (2020-2025).
Among others, ECLT Foundation will help build the capacity of the Tobacco Commission in dealing with the vice. The Commission has since already set up a unit to focus solely on child labour issues in the country.