Delays by the government to amend the Tobacco Industry Act have worried tobacco industry stakeholders who say it is impinging on farmers and the industry at large.
Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama) Trust and some tobacco buyers are calling for the amendment of some sections of the Act to address challenges farmers are facing.
They need a review of sections that prohibit the provision of alternative crop inputs, transportation of tobacco from farm gate to floors and the prohibition of buyers from operating tobacco floors.
As Parliament starts meeting tomorrow, Ministry of Agriculture officials say the Act is not ready for tabling in the august House and will not be part of government business during the budget meeting.
Ministry of Agriculture Public Relations Officer Graciun Lungu said the ministry finished reviewing the amended law which was submitted to the Cabinet committee before it is taken to the full Cabinet.
“If those processes are expedited, it might be tabled. If not, then it will be tabled in the next meeting but chances that it will be tabled in this coming meeting are very low,” he said.
The development has worried Tama Trust, which says further delays entails not only infringing on farmers’ rights but also leaves the industry vulnerable.
The association’s president Abiel Kalima Banda said on Monday that the farmers cannot access inputs for alternative crops such as maize for food security as the law bars buyers from offering inputs for other crops except tobacco.
“Farmers will be forced to sell contracted tobacco to vendors to purchase food,” he said.
One of the tobacco buying companies, Japan Tobacco International (JTI) has also expressed concern over the delay indicating that it is robbing the industry of much needed progress.
JTI Leaf Corporate Affairs and Communications Director Limbani Kakhome said they were promised that it will be tabled November 2021.
Tobacco Commission Public Relations Officer Telephorous Chigwenembe said the process needed time to be thoroughly concluded.
Justin Mkweu is a fast growing reporter who currently works with Times Group on the business desk.
He is however flexible as he also writes about current affairs and national issues.