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Eyebrows over Tobacco Commission’s China trip

Tobacco market

Joseph Chidanti Malunga

At least seven officials from the Tobacco Commission are travelling to China this Sunday over a tobacco supply deal that already exists.

According to sources within the Commission, the trip is unnecessary because with the agreement already in place, all that is needed is for Malawi to activate it and commit it will supply the tobacco.

But the Tobacco Commission has since defended the trip.

The Commission’s Chief Executive Officer Joseph Chidanti Malunga and board chairperson Michael Nyirenda confirmed to Malawi News about the travel but they could not say how many officials are flying out.

The body’s spokesperson Telephorous Chigwenembe could also not give the number, other than confirming the trip.

He said the Commission has an agreement with a Chinese state-controlled firm, the Tobacco Monopoly, which was signed in 2018.

According to a November 23, 2022 communication from the Malawi Embassy in China to Tobacco Control Commission, Tobacco Monopoly assured Malawi that the contract still exists and it only awaits commitment from Malawi.

“For 2022-23 season, Malawi is yet to confirm the order with the China Tobacco International Group in Zimbabwe (Tianze Company) which is responsible for sourcing in that region,” reads the communication to Chidanti Malunga sent from Beijing.

The communication hints that the way it is now is that the Malawi Embassy in China can communicate with the company on the country’s readiness to supply.

“China Monopoly requested this embassy to give them information on the current situation on whether Malawi will be able to supply for the 2023 order company is Zimbabwe,” the communication adds. or not as reported by their

Chigwenembe said the Tobacco Commission has contracts with Chinese companies but Malawi has not been able to supply because Malawi Leaf suspended its operations.

“There is a risk of having contracts expire. This visit to China, therefore, is to engage the Chinese companies so that they resume buying tobacco from Malawi.

“There will be signing of protocols and other agreements in that regard, hence the need for high level delegation,” Chigwenembe said.

When asked why officials are travelling to China for a deal that already exists and they just have to confirm with Zimbabwe for this year’s export, Chidanti referred the matter to the board.

“Those are board matters; therefore talk to the board chairperson,” he said in a short response.

When contacted, Board chairperson Nyirenda pushed the matter back to Chidanti Malunga saying he is new in the board.

“I have also just been told about this trip. As you know I am new and I was told this issue was already discussed with the previous board,” Nyirenda said.

Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture chairperson Sameer Suleman said the trip is a waste of the tax payers’ resources.

“We have a lot of problems in the country for us to be spending money on sightseeing in China,” Suleman said.

Tobacco Commission is state-controlled organisation which was established to regulate the production and marketing of tobacco in Malawi.

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