LILONGWE (Xinhua) — Malawi President Peter Mutharika Wednesday stressed on the need for tobacco buyers to offer better prices for the leaf, saying tobacco is a serious matter to the sub-Saharan country’s economy.
Mutharika made the appeal during the official launch of the 2016 tobacco market at Lilongwe Auction Floors in the capital, Lilongwe.
“Tobacco is a very serious matter. It has been the life of our economy, our life!
“Therefore, I come not to tell you what you want to hear, but what you must hear.
“It’s time to make decisive action,” said Mutharika.
“We want fair prices. Every year, we always agree on pricing and yet you always abandon our agreement.
“This year, we told you to suggest the minimum prices yourselves and we took them. … I am a democrat who likes dialogue but you should also know that a person who doesn’t listen is not worth listening to,”said Mutharika.
The president said much as his government respected the investors as being important to the country’s economy, Malawi government would not respect any exploiters among them.
“We understand the difficult international market forces you have to contend with but we will neither understand nor forgive tax evasions.
“Tax evasion is criminal. Non-remittance of foreign exchange is criminal. Using bogus work permits to hijack Malawian jobs is criminal.
“Racism and segregating Malawians in the tobacco industry is simply unacceptable,” He said.
He said Malawi had thrived on tobacco for more than a century now and that the country continues to depend on the crop which government promotes its production and marketing as a crop of strategic importance.
Mutharika described tobacco as a crop that economically empowers the country’s smallholder farmers in rural areas adding that his government was determined to continue promoting value addition to increase export earnings.
We are promoting tobacco while diversifying our agricultural base at the same time,” said Mutharika.
“We also promote other economically viable enterprises including cotton, tea, rice, paprika, cassava, sugar, groundnuts and other legumes, sunflower, livestock, aquaculture and macadamia nuts.”
The president said he was pleased that there were new and big investors getting ready to start manufacturing fertilizer in the country to support tobacco and maize alike