Growers, TC upbeat on tobacco ‘ban’ removal
Key stakeholders in tobacco sector have expressed optimism that the United States (US) will lift the Withhold and Release Order (WRO) on Malawi’s tobacco ahead of the 2020 selling season.
In November 2019, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced that it has issued a withhold release order on tobacco from Malawi and products containing tobacco from Malawi. This meant that the products would be detained at all US ports of entry.
But Agriculture Minister, Kondwani Nankhumwa, then said the US Government did not institute a ban on the importation of Malawi tobacco.
He said Malawi could send and was still sending tobacco to the US but that there are controlled border posts set to screen the leaf to detect if it was not produced through child or forced labour.
According to CBP, the WRO was issued based on information indicating that tobacco from Malawi is produced using forced labour and forced child labor.
Eight percent of tobacco produced in the country is sold in the US.
In an interview, Tobacco Commission (TC) Chief Executive Officer, Kaisi Sadala, believed the country made a good impression when a US delegation recently visited the country on the same.
“The order is still there but recently, we received a delegation from the US which met the government officials and all stakeholders and went on the ground to appreciate efforts on elimination of child labour and forced labour.
“We had fruitful discussions, they will go back and make a decision, otherwise as a country we have made a lot of initiatives and strides to make sure that this issue of forced and child labour is addressed,” Sadala said.
Chief Executive Officer of the Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama) Farmers Trust, Felix Thole, agreed with Sadala that the US is likely to remove the order.
“As far as the situation is, there is no likely impact of the WRO on the tobacco market this year. The market would proceed as it should because the orders have already been submitted and no change is anticipated,” Thole said.
US Embassy Acting Public Affairs Officer, Bryan Dwyer, late last year said restrictions on Malawi tobacco may be revoked only if Washington is convinced that use of forced labor in Malawi has ceased
Dwyer said child labor is a significant human rights and governance issue and the Government of Malawi should urgently work with partners to eradicate child labor.
Tobacco remains Malawi’s major export crop.
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