Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development has confirmed that a bill meant to regulate the tobacco industry will be tabled in the next sitting of Parliament.
Speaking on the sidelines of the opening of the tobacco marketing season at Limbe Auction Floors, both Minister of Agriculture Joseph Mwanamvekha and Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama) Chief Executive Officer, Mathews Zulu, confirmed the development.
Mwanamvekha said, tobacco being the main cash crop for the Malawi economy, it is important to have an Act of Parliament that governs the operations of the industry.
“We need to have a Tobacco Bill and the President [Peter Mutharika] has instructed my ministry to formulate one. We have, at the moment, finalised compiling the bill and it is ready to be presented to Parliament during the May sitting,” he said.
He further said, before completion of the draft bill, the ministry engaged all stakeholders in the tobacco industry for their input.
Mwanamvekha said the bill seeks to protect the grower from the hardships arising from prodution of the crop.
“As we very well know that the grower is the main producer of tobacco, we need to make sure that the grower is well taken care of.
“The bill seeks to address the challenges faced by growers, especially when it comes to the grower making substantial profits,” Mwanamvekha said.
He also hinted that the bill has also looked at pricing of tobacco for both contract farming and auction sales.
“You might be aware that contract growers sign their contracts without knowing the buying prices. The same applies to auction sales, whereby growers do not have a selling price in mind when they are planting the crop. We want this to change. The grower should have a picture of the price the tobacco will be sold at,” Mwanamvekha said.
He said the ministry is doing this to protect the grower from exploitation and also to make sure that the growers gets value for their sweat.
In a separate interview, Zulu said the ministry is better placed to discuss the contents of the bill. He said it was too early for Tama to comment on the bill.
But Zulu said, as an association, they are looking forward to the passing of the bill.
He said what is key is that the bill will protect tobacco growers.
“Whatever is in the bill should be able to protect the grower from poor pricing, This is what we would like to see happen,” Zulu said.