By Emmanuel Simpokolwe:
Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Kondwani Nankhumwa, has announced the suspension of the 75 percent penalty on tobacco sold outside individual quotas.
Nankhumwa made the announcement when he was addressing scores of tobacco farmers gathered at the Tobacco Commission (TC) head office in Lilongwe.
According to Nkankhumwa, government would treat this as a transition period to popularise the tobacco act to the farmers.
“Farmers have not been comfortable with the penalties because the law came when they had already done the work in the fields, so we have suspended the fines so that we first inform the farmers about what’s in the Tobacco Act so that at the end of the day we reach a win-win situation to the challenge,” said Nankhumwa.
He further said there was need to look into amending the act and, time permitting, those amendments could be taken back to Parliament by the end of this year.
“We don’t want to infringe on the rights of the farmer. Tobacco farmers need to be recognised looking at the much work associated with tobacco farming,” he said.
President Peter Mutharika assented to the law in February this year when most farmers had their tobacco in the fields.
Among others, the new Tobacco Act stipulates that “where a grower wilfully produces excess tobacco in contravention of his production quota or the contractual agreement with his buyer, as the case may be, the [Tobacco] Commission shall uplift the grower’s production quota and collect three quarters of the proceeds of the excess tobacco and remit the remaining one quarter to the grower”.
The law says the three quarters of the proceeds collected by the TC shall be put together with other fines collected by the TC for the development of the tobacco industry.
It adds that where excess tobacco is yielded as a result of natural factors that are beyond the control of a grower, the TC shall uplift the grower’s quota but collect one quarter of the proceeds of the excess tobacco and remit the remainder to the grower.
Nankhumwa also toured TC’s offices just days after one of the commission’s official vehicles was petrol-bombed in the wee hours of Sunday.