He said Government promotes tobacco production and marketing as a crop of strategic importance but was focusing on value addition to increase export earnings.

“We are promoting tobacco while diversifying our agricultural base at the same time. We also promote other economically viable enterprises. These include cotton, tea, rice, paprika, cassava, sugar, groundnuts and other legumes, sunflower, livestock, aquaculture and macadamia nuts,” said the President.

He said the sector is facing challenges including the quality of the leaf at home, and anti-tobacco campaigns abroad.

“As farmers, we worry about the high price of farm inputs; we worry about the low price we get paid; we worry about drought and climate change. We think about our survival,” added President Mutharika.

He said a stable and strong economy was beneficial to everyone and the International Monetary Fund has just confirmed that turning around of the economy.

“The tobacco industry demands three cardinal actions. We must create better regulation of the industry. We must provide affordable fertilizer for the farmers. And we must protect our farmers from drought and climate change,”

“Our farmers are labouring more and earning less. There are issues to be tackled by strong regulation of the tobacco industry. But one thing is clear and urgent. We must reduce the cost of production by reducing the cost of fertilizer. Our solution is to bring home investors in local fertilizer manufacturing. We must create more jobs at home and save our forex. We must stop importing fertilizer,” said President Mutharika.

He said tobacco pricing was of great concern for every farmer and asked buyers for fair prices. He said this year Government left it to buyers to propose minimum prices and he expects that they will adhere to the set prices to allow farmers recover their investment.

“I know you have the integrity and honesty to keep your own word. We respect you as investors and that you are important to our economy,” said President Mutharika.

Tobacco is Malawi’s largest foreign exchange earner. Malawi is the largest grower of burley tobacco and this year over 120 million kilogrammes are expected to be sold at the auction.

The President further reiterated the need for all investors to abide to all financial laws of the land when handling profits made on Malawi soil and all matters relating to treatment of the local workforce.

Speaking at the same event, Tobacco Control Commission Chairperson, Inkhosi ya Makhosi Mbelwa IV asked government to facilitate a fair marketing system that benefits farmers.- State House press office