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Friday, 07 June 2019 12:03

Loans threaten the future of tobacco farming

Written by  Amos Banda
Kandoje_Tobacco companies do  not consult the DADO Kandoje_Tobacco companies do not consult the DADO pic by Amos Banda

Kasungu, June 7, 2019: Farmers in Kasungu have expressed worry over the future of growing tobacco, saying it is no longer profitable due to  its over reliance on burdensome loans.
One of the growers Frank Chafukira from Kapheni Village said in an interview that low prices at the auction floors and tough conditions that tobacco companies set compel farmers to seek loans every year.

“It is now becoming a norm that tobacco should be bought at low prices; this is gradually but surely killing the tobacco industry since we do not make any profits.

“The loans that we obtain from tobacco companies have very tough conditions attached. We sell very few tobacco bales at very low prices,” Chafukira said.

He added that he is now contemplating to abandon tobacco for other cash crops.

Another tobacco farmer Boyson Kadothi from Mphondera Village said the loans that tobacco companies give are becoming too exorbitant to pay back.

“The loan payment procedure requires that many deductions are made from our dues, such that we pay back a lot more. As a result, we do not make any profits. 

“In the past, we used to grow tobacco without loans but used our own resources and made huge profits,” he said.

Kadothi, therefore, said to save tobacco farming, government should consider stopping tobacco companies from growing the crop.

“If the situation continues like this, I am afraid a lot of farmers will stop growing tobacco because it is no longer profitable,” he said.

Kasungu District Agriculture Development Officer (DADO) Patterson Kandoje said the tobacco companies include some unnecessary items on the farmers’ loans which make it difficult for them to repay.

“One problem with these tobacco companies is that they do not involve [our] office in their operations. 

“However, what I have gathered is that the companies also provide other incentives that are not desired by the farmers in tobacco farming,” Kandoje said.

“As a result, the loan repayment shoots up unnecessarily and the farmers hardly make any profits. Consequently, they are compelled to get loans every growing season as they cannot stand on their own,” he added.

Kandoje concurred with Kadothi that most farmers want to stop tobacco farming.

Tobacco companies such as Alliance One, JTI, and Limbe Leaf provide loans through which farmers obtain necessary farm inputs such as fertilizer, seeds and other chemicals.