2021/22 Season Very Challenging- JTI
The tobacco buying company JTI says the 2021/22 tobacco season has been very challenging to them and different players, due to harsh weather conditions.
Its corporate affairs and communications director Limbani Kakhome told journalists in Lilongwe on Thursday that the crop was affected because farmers planted late as a result of a 3 or 4 week-rainfall delay.
He said this did not match with a high demand for the leaf globally due to high consumption, which saw good pricing on the market.
Kakhome says, "There is a high demand of the crop globally due to high cigarette consumption, but unfortunately we have not been able to meet that demand in the past two years. Out of the 161 million kilograms, we have only managed to produce and export 103 million kilograms."
He adds that the unfriendly weather conditions were bound to discourage farmers, but the company moved fast to encourage them by deploying more extension workers and agronomists, as well as cushioning them in February with half a billion kwacha collateral, which is given back to the farmers when they have repaid their loans.
"More steps were taken to ensure our contract farmers are not strangled by loans on contract inputs, thus the company allowed them to return the unused inputs," Kakhome says.
He has decried the delay to allow the provision of giving farmers inputs for alternative crops, which he described as strange for a country that is pushing for diversification to be food secure.
"The myth that farmers are overburdened by loans is not true, actually it is only deterring the country from producing more food. Imagine that given inputs, tobacco farmers can produce 11 percent of the country's maize," he adds.
Kakhome says it is unfortunate that despite the delay to allow this provision, the tobacco farmers do not access the Affordable Input Program, which disadvantages them.
However, the company says it is already preparing its farmers who have already shown interest to grow by fulfilling contractual obligations, adding it is pleasing to note that the farmers are not deterred despite experiencing one of the toughest seasons ever.