Cigarette maker British American Tobacco (BAT) has ruled out purchasing leaf from non-contracted farmers dashing the hopes of growers affected by the exit of other tobacco companies.
The Nairobi Securities Exchange-listed company which has 5,537 contracted farmers countrywide said that rules passed in 1994 prohibit tobacco purchase from growers without a contract.
Alliance One Tobacco Company which was a major player last year ceased operations in Kenya and moved to Uganda and Zimbabwe, leaving more than 10,000 farmers without a buyer for their crop.
“Whilst we cannot comment on the tobacco growing and purchasing models employed by our competitors, we are confident that none of the aggrieved farmers were contracted by BAT Kenya,” Connie Anyika, the firm’s head of regulatory affairs said.
“We therefore can only purchase tobacco that we have contracted to grow,” adding that even the contracted farmers have a set amount of leaf to deliver.
Farmers in Bungoma County have reportedly threatened to storm the company’s leaf-buying centre in Malakisi in protest. With the exit of Alliance One, BAT’s only major competitor is Mastermind Tobacco with the market for the leaf shrinking.
Alliance One which bought tobacco for export exited the market citing the high cost of leaf in the country.
BAT said that it does not intend to shift its operations out of the country.