No anti-tobacco cam­paign

ChinAfrica - - Africa Report -

As Malawi’s tobacco rev­enue started to drop, it was wor­ry­ing not only to farm­ers but also the coun­try, as forex con­tin­ued to dwin­dle.

Ac­cord­ing to TCC, in 2016, rev­enue from tobacco dropped by 18 per­cent, from $337 mil­lion in the pre­vi­ous year to $275.7 mil­lion. This year, the crop had re­al­ized $209 mil­lion when auc­tion floors closed in Au­gust.

Ac­cord­ing to the AHL Group, the com­pany that owns and op­er­ates Malawi’s tobacco auc­tion floors, tobacco sales were 192.5, 195.1 and 106.5 mil­lion kg in 2015, 2016 and 2017 re­spec­tively.

Luka said there are around 30,000 tobacco farm­ing groups, with five to 10 farm­ers in each group. He said the ex­act fig­ure is dif­fi­cult to know be­cause the num­ber of farm­ers varies ac­cord­ing to prices of tobacco on the mar­ket and also the size of the cul­ti­vat­ing area. Malawi ex­ports tobacco to 15 coun­tries, in­clud­ing China.

“They should stop putting so much en­ergy in tobacco be­cause it has no fu­ture and try other crops like legumes,” he said.

An eco­nom­ics lec­turer at the Univer­sity of Malawi, Dr. Martin Phangaphanga said Malawi should prop­erly im­ple­ment its plans and strate­gies based on the planned Malawi Growth De­vel­op­ment Strat­egy if it is to re­al­ize a bright fu­ture.

“The econ­omy still faces chal­lenges in­clud­ing wide­spread poverty and heavy de­pen­dence on pri­mary agri­cul­tural prod­ucts for its ex­port earn­ings. Cur­rently, the econ­omy has at­tained some macroe­co­nomic sta­bil­ity,” said Phangaphanga.

He said if Malawi can achieve and sus­tain low lev­els of in­fla­tion and grow its econ­omy faster than the pop­u­la­tion growth to re­duce the poverty lev­els, then it should be on a promis­ing path.

The economist warned that the anti-smok­ing lobby will ef­fec­tively re­duce de­mand for tobacco. He also warned that if Malawi farm­ers in­sist on grow­ing tobacco, which will re­sult in sat­u­rat­ing the mar­ket, prices will fall and they will fail to even break even.

Phangaphanga agreed with the call for crop di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion to avoid re­ly­ing on tobacco whose fu­ture looks bleak.

“Di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion to other ex­porta­bles and in­vest­ment in forex-earn­ing ac­tiv­i­ties seems to be the ob­vi­ous way out of the cur­rent vul­ner­a­bil­ity. Of course there are still over a bil­lion smok­ers around the world, but this [an­ti­smok­ing] cam­paign will work grad­u­ally, per­haps over a pe­riod of time since smok­ing is a be­hav­ioral is­sue. So coun­tries like Malawi should plan and man­age their eco­nomic tran­si­tion ac­cord­ingly,” he said.

Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary for Malawi’s Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture, Ir­ri­ga­tion and Wa­ter De­vel­op­ment Erica Ma­ganga said the gov­ern­ment is still look­ing at al­ter­na­tive crops, but it is in­creas­ingly be­com­ing dif­fi­cult She said when­ever a sug­ges­tion is made on a par­tic­u­lar crop, a neg­a­tive fac­tor arises re­sult­ing in com­plete aban­don­ment.

“For ex­am­ple, we set­tled for pi­geon peas as a good cash crop to re­place tobacco. But prices on the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket have crum­bled and farm­ers who grew it are com­plain­ing. So we are still search­ing, but we do not know how long this will take,” said Ma­ganga.

She dis­closed that some crops like cof­fee and macadamia have been pro­posed, but the gov­ern­ment is still re­search­ing their suit­abil­ity for a steady mar­ket.

Phanga­panga has mean­while ad­vised the gov­ern­ment not to rush to find a re­place­ment for tobacco to avoid dis­ap­point­ing farm­ers and fur­ther dent­ing the econ­omy.

“The mar­ket for tobacco still ex­ists and Malawi will con­tinue to ex­port in the fore­see­able fu­ture. But as an econ­omy, the coun­try should work to­ward de­vel­op­ing its in­dus­trial and man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor in or­der to be able to of­fer pro­cessed prod­ucts on the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket, rather than pri­mary agri­cul­tural prod­ucts,” he said.

(Re­port­ing from Malawi)

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.