· Your Excellency the Right Honourable Chief Justice Richard Banda, SC (Retired);
· The Vice President of the Republic of Malawi, Right Honourable Khumbo Kachali, MP;
· The Speaker of the National Assembly, Honourable Chimunthu Banda, MP.
· Your Lordship, Chief Justice Lovemore Munlo, SC
· Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Professor Peter Mwanza, MP;
· Ministers and Deputy Ministers here present;
· The Chief Secretary to the Government, Mr. Bright Msaka, SC;
· The President of TAMA, Mr. Reuben Maigwa;
· The Acting Chief Executive Officer of TAMA, Mr. Graham Kunimba;
· Members of the Board of Trustees of the Tobacco Association of Malawi;
· Members of the Executive Committee of the Tobacco Association of Malawi;
· Distinguished Chief Executives of Tobacco Merchant Companies;
· Distinguished Guests;
· Members of the Press;
· Ladies and Gentlemen.
I would like to start by expressing my profound gratitude for inviting me to be the Guest of Honour at TAMA’s 24th Annual Congress. It is quite an honour for me to interact with the tobacco stakeholders under one roof especially the Tobacco Association of Malawi (TAMA) councillors, alternate councillors and delegates who are here on behalf of tobacco farmers.
Honourable Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am aware that TAMA is the largest tobacco grower body in this country and is a founding member of the International Tobacco Growers’ Association (ITGA) which is our reliable source of information on what is happening globally with respect to tobacco production, marketing and the rest of the value chain stakeholders.
As you are all aware, tobacco remains one of our key strategic crops in Malawi. As such, Government will do anything necessary to ensure that the benefits that the crop is supposed to give to the farmers and all the value chain stakeholders including the country as a whole are not compromised. This is because tobacco still generates up to 47% of the country’s export earnings, employs a significant number of the population in our country and also contributes to food security. We all know that everyone that grows tobacco also grows food crops like maize and groundnuts, using inputs obtained on loan with the tobacco crop as source of money for loan repayment.
With regard to this year’s theme of the TAMA Annual Congress, “Integrated Tobacco Production System (IPS)—for Profitability and Sustainability” it is right that the tobacco industry and Government take stock of our past and approach our production with a futuristic perspective. This will assist us to minimize further erosion of the tobacco farmers’ income and profitability. At the same time, we have to match our production to the requirements of the trade.
I am aware that the ‘war’ on tobacco continues through the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and that some of the problems currently being faced are a result of the implementation of the convention. Understandably, the FCTC will continue to take its toll by way of having several negative implications on production, marketing and consumption. For sure, we all know that the FCTC has succeeded in reducing the consumption of tobacco in some parts of the world and there has to be a corresponding effect on production for which stakeholders in the industry including Government must stand up to. In this regard, I have approved the introduction of the Integrated Production System (IPS) as a response to some of the negative effects of the FCTC. I am, therefore, happy that during this congress, you will fully discuss and share the insights of the IPS.
Malawi is not yet a party to FCTC but my Government is currently looking into the issue.
TAMA is the largest grower body in Malawi and the oldest which has a history dating back to 1929 when it was founded. Malawi tobacco cannot, therefore, be discussed without the involvement of TAMA. My Government appreciates the strides that TAMA has made in the recent years like restructuring and most importantly, repositioning itself in the wake of the FCTC and other challenges. TAMA is, therefore, an important stakeholder in the tobacco industry that advocates for dialogue to find solutions to problems that continue to ‘rock’ this industry. I wish to recognize this role that TAMA plays and continues to play in finding lasting solutions to problems being faced in the industry as opposed to what other associations are doing.
Honourable Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen, there is a proliferation of “supposedly” tobacco grower body associations in this industry and some of them are owned by businessmen whose interests are not to genuinely assist the vulnerable tobacco farmers but rather to reap from them. Some associations were born out of motivation to have a lee way to ‘offloading quotas’, but do not have sustainable governance structures and others are just family centered associations.
This practice must stop immediately and I am directing the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security to set standards as benchmarks for qualifying tobacco associations starting from this coming growing season. All tobacco grower bodies should be screened against the set standards and any association that fails should not be allowed to participate in any activity along the tobacco value chain.
Honourable Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen, my government has introduced IPS in tobacco which should be implemented this coming season with a proper regulatory framework. The framework will spell out clear roles for all the stakeholders. It is however, my sincere hope that this IPS will accommodate enterprise diversification with special emphasis on the Presidential Initiative on other cash crops including legumes and livestock.
I am aware that within IPS, tobacco merchants will be able to link tobacco growers to banks and finance lending institutions to get farm input loans. In this case those farmers who do not have the capacity to access farm inputs will be assisted. If IPS allows farmers to diversify with tobacco, they will be able to acquire inputs for the other crops as well thereby addressing some of the problems currently being experienced. Government cannot do everything alone, it needs the support of the private sector for wealth-creation and empowerment of the general public and tobacco growers. I, therefore, urge the tobacco merchants to embrace crop diversification with tobacco as they implement IPS.
I am particularly happy to hear that TAMA has formed several cooperatives; this is a step towards crop enterprise diversification. I would like to congratulate TAMA and promise that my government will give you the support you need in charting this route. It is my wish that all the well-intended tobacco associations should be encouraging their members to diversify their enterprises with tobacco. This is the only way for us to sustain economic growth and development for the country. I am, therefore, appealing to all tobacco associations in the country to emulate what TAMA has started doing.
Honourable Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen, let me assure you that I will be following developments as you implement the IPS and the diversification initiative. I will be very happy to be receiving progress reports on both the positives and negatives of these initiatives. I believe this is the time for all stakeholders to move with innovations to modernize and bring about the needed efficiency to the tobacco industry.
Finally, I am happy to be apprised of the Kanengo Tobacco Processors Ltd and that strides have been made to acquire equity. It is my sincere hope that the equity acquired will translate to value-addition for the farmers. On the proposal for TAMA to be exporting tobacco on behalf of its members, I do not have any problems in supporting this initiative as long as it will be beneficial to the tobacco farmers and on condition that TAMA registers as a local tobacco buyer.
Honourable Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen with these few remarks, it is now my singular honour and pleasure to declare the 24th TAMA Annual Congress officially open.
Thank you for your attention
May God bless us all; May God bless Malawi.