By Chimwemwe Mangazi:
Lawmakers are Wednesday expected to scrutinise the Tobacco Industry Bill, after soliciting views from stakeholders to harmonise the legislation for the benefit of all.
The bill was being evaluated by a joint committee comprising the Committee of Agriculture, the Committee of Legal Affairs and the Committee of Industry and Trade.
Chairperson of the of the Joint Committee who also sits as Chairperson of the Agriculture Committee, Joseph Chidanti-Malunga, said all is set for Parliament to discuss the bill.
“Everything has been completed and we are ready to discuss the bill in Parliament,” Malunga said.
The bill stirred debate among stakeholders as some felt it would help the country conform to demands of the global market while others were of the view that it would benefit tobacco-buying companies or merchants and exploit tobacco growers further.
In a recent interview JTI Malawi Director of Communications and Corporate Affairs, Limbani Kakhome, said Malawi is in a position where the international tobacco community is looking at how fast it moves to modernise and be compliant to tobacco regulations globally which can be enhanced with proper laws as contained in the bill.
“Malawi is quite a big producer of burley tobacco of the filler type but there are also other competitors now. We have safeguarded that position for many years but it’s not a guaranteed position. When buyers at an international level are looking at profiles they will start to say are we still meeting their requirements.
“At this stage, we are starting to see a lot of pressure from the international buyers saying you need to comply to this or that; otherwise, they will look elsewhere and, so, there is a possibility that, demand can start to decline depending on our lack of compliance to international requirements,” Kakhome said.
In a separate interview, AHL Group General Manager, Graham Kunimba, said lawmakers should be cautious on how the bill will protect ordinary tobacco growers.
“We are happy that, this time around, the parliamentarians consulted us. They also consulted the farmers; that is the way to go but what we are saying is that the farmers should be empowered economically and this is the optune time as the bill is being worked on.
“They should look at how the farmer can produce independently without any manipulation and this is what we are asking the members of Parliament to look at when enacting this bill into law,” Kunimba said.