By Feston Malekezo:
Stakeholders in the tobacco industry have expressed optimism that the new Tobacco Act would bring sanity to the industry.
Initially, farmers were paying transporters per bale, regardless of weight. However, the new Act recommends that farmers pay per kilogramme.
Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama) Chief Executive Officer, Felix Thole, said the law is protecting farmers.
Thole who was speaking at an outreach programme launch organised by Tobacco Commission (TC) in Rumphi District on Sunday, said Tama was aware of issues which transporters have raised.
“The law is saying that there should be no deduction of service fees from farmers, but we offer that as a service and we were supposed to be getting something for us to be able to run those services.
“That has slightly affected us because it means we have to close all our depots. But, all in all, the law is good because it is protecting the farmer from unscrupulous organisations,” he said.
Controller of Agriculture Services in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Alexander Bulirani, said the law had been formulated to protect small-scale growers.
“Government deliberately came up with the Tobacco Act as one way of ensuring that smallholder farmers are not exploited as the case has been in the past, and this law also ensures the conservation of our natural resources,” Bulirani said.
One of the farmers, Principal Kawazamawe, said farmers still needed protection on prices as most buyers offer low prices for the leaf.
“We have received this Act wholeheartedly, but the way tobacco is sold is as if we are almost surrendering the commodity to the buyer at no price,” Kazamawe said.
The Act addresses concerns of overproduction, use of non-certified tobacco seed, irregularities in growers’ registration and transportation, tobacco processing, grading and exporting, among others.