By Wisdom Ngwira – Mana.
The Tobacco Commission (TC) has warned it will arrest and prosecute all middlemen who buy the leaf illegally this coming tobacco marketing season.
The warning comes as the 2020 tobacco market season is expected to be opened soon in the country’s tobacco auction floors.
Speaking recently in an interview with Malawi News Agency, TC Executive Director, Kaisi Sadala said it is sad that some unscrupulous tobacco vendors take advantage of farmers’ desperation for money, especially during lean months.
“Tobacco farming is different from any other type of agriculture since it follows set laws. Before a person starts engaging themselves in tobacco farming, there is need for that particular person to be certified by the Tobacco Commission.
“This, therefore, entails that anyone who goes to farmers and buy from them the leaf at lower prices with the aim of selling it later at the auction floors, breaches the Tobacco Act and should stop immediately,” said Sadala.
The T C boss warned that this time around, the commission will flex its muscles and work hand in hand with law enforcing agencies in arresting and prosecuting all vendors involved in the malpractice.
“We will use the existing laws to prosecute those found in breach of this Act and if found guilty, they have individually to pay hefty fines such as K10 million as well as serving five year custodial sentences since the vice works to the disadvantage of a poor farmer,” he said.
The TC Chief Executive further explained that the organisation has strategically planted its officers in various hot-spot areas.
“These officers will be trackingdown the illegal tobacco vendors,” said Sadala.
On a different note, he expressed concern over excessive rains that the country is currently receiving which he said can adversely affect the crop’s use of fertiliser in the fields.
“We are worried that farmers may fail to yield enough tobacco because of excessive rainfall which can make the applied fertiliser go deep into the soil beyond the crop’s roots,” he said.
Marietta Ngoma, a tobacco farmer from Traditional Authority Mpherembe in Mzimba expressed hope that tobacco buyers at the auction floors will this year prioritise farmers’ welfare by offering good prices for their leaf.
“It is my dearest hope that the tobacco buyers will offer us better prices so that by the end of the day, we benefit from our sweat,” said Ngoma.