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‘New Tobacco Bill to protect growers’

By Austin Mataka:

As Parliament reconvenes in Lilongwe today to discuss a number of legislations, including the Tobacco Industry Bill, tobacco marketer AHL Group has said it is hopeful that the new law would protect growers.

The bill was previously sent back to the Joint Committee of Parliament for further consultation.

Stakeholders had previously raised concerns that the bill did not aim to economically empower the farmer, make them independent and free from manipulation.

AHL Group Public Relations Manager, Teresa Ndanga, said Sunday, as a market, AHL has noticed some challenges that farmers have faced in recent times some of which include the uncertainty where some farmers are not sure whether all their tobacco will be bought and the inconsistency in the pricing of inputs which eventually affects their net revenues.

“It is our hope that the honourable members of Parliament will appreciate that the country still relies heavily on tobacco, hence the need to protect the crop until such a time that the country has established a proper alternative. We also hope that the bill will not leave out any farming households that have depended on tobacco all their lives.

“It is also our hope that this new law will not close out any prospects of new entrants in the form of new investors in the tobacco industry and that tobacco markets will continue to be run transparently for the collective benefit of all stakeholders,” Ndanga said.

Currently, tobacco markets in Malawi are operated publicly under one roof, bringing together all stakeholders, an environment which promotes transparency. This arrangement also allows for healthy competition, ensuring that the farmer gets the best prices on the market.

Ndanga said it is the wish of AHL that parliamentarians will ensure that the new law should ensure that the farmer grows economically independent and is legally protected as they transact tobacco farming as a business.

She argued that it is also important that the bill ensures that farmers receive their revenue in the quickest possible time to allow them settle their financial obligations and prepare for the next cycle of business activities.

Recently, tobacco growers had, through their representatives, also expressed reservations on the lack of consultations during the drafting process arguing that the first submission of the bill did not aim to protect their interests.

The Joint Committee of Parliament has been consulting stakeholders on the bill and will report their findings to Parliament during the forthcoming meeting.

Ndanga confirmed that, unlike the first time, this time around, AHL was duly consulted by the joint committee of parliamentarians which was working on bill.

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