Tobacco farmers in Eastern Province have blamed the government for its continued silence over the low prices offered by some outgrower companies. The farmers who called in to Radio Maria’s Issue of the Day phone-in programme on Thursday said they were not happy with tobacco prices that they were being offered.

One of the farmers from Katete who called himself Uncle Oscar said people had complained to the government several times but that government was not listening to their cry.

“Government is not helping us in this area, we are like orphans, we have complained but our complaint has not been heard. Look at Malawi, when the people complained the President responded by closing the floors and ordered the companies to offer good prices. Other companies were even banned from operating from there,” said Oscar.

Cephas Zimba of Mfuwe said the government should suspend the floors so that outgrower companies could reflect on their prices. He said the government should feel for the farmers who got paid once a year for their farming business.

Isaac of Chipata’s Undi area said it was better for tobacco farmers not to vote this year because they were upset with government’s silence on tobacco prices. He said if Alliance One Tobacco Company had failed, government should invite another company that could help the farmers. Ishmael Phiri of Petauke said it was unfortunate that the government had seen the problems that farmers were subjected to.

“Government’s silence means that it was the one which was benefiting from companies and not farmers, so it’s important that government pays attention to this problem.

Let government look at people’s problems so that they benefit from their business,” Phiri said. Mwale from Mnukwa area in Chipata said farmers had already lost and that government should come to their aid as fast as possible.

Tobacco business is lucrative in the province and most farmers have ventured into it.