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Tobacco law under review

Process attracts mixed views

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Barely three years after the Tobacco Act became effective in 2019, the law is under review, and the process has since attracted mixed feelings among stakeholders in the tobacco supply chain.

The law, which was passed in Parliament in 2018 to regulate the production, manufacturing and marketing of tobacco, replaced the Tobacco Act of 1970.

At the time, the government and other stakeholders, including tobacco industry regulator the Tobacco Commission, growers’ representative bodies and buyers said the law was meant to bring sanity to the industry.

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But comments from stakeholders in the industry suggest that the law is not only undergoing a review this time around, but a repeal process, with a new one expected to be tabled in the next meeting of Parliament in November.

Areas that have attracted mixed views include proposals to rework provisions that should guide the contract farming system of tobacco without crippling the auction marketing system.

For instance, the law holds that “in case of funded contract farming, production of alternative crops may be the term of the contract but the buyer shall not provide the inputs for the alternative crops”.

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Debate has ensued on the matter, with some buyers saying the provision contradicts the government’s crop diversification drive while others feel it protects the farmer from working for buying companies without reaping from their toil.

In an interview on Friday, TC Chief Executive Officer Joseph Chidanti Malaunga said a review of the law was more than necessary now, with over 80 percent of the provisions requiring some amendment.

He said having a new law to govern production of tobacco—Malawi’s top export crop—would be in the best interest of the farmers and the economy at large.

“We don’t intend to have the grower be subjected to payment of loans for crops that are not tobacco-related offered by tobacco buyers, for instance.

“On contract versus auction farming, our intention is to let market dynamics determine the trends. To bring sanity and efficiency to the entire tobacco supply chain, the first step is to have an enabling law. And the new law should surely do that,” Malunga said.

He said the commission has been working with almost all players in a thorough consultation process for the proposed law.

But one of the tobacco buying companies, JTI Leaf Malawi, lamented what it calls lack of engagement and consultation in the process.

JTI Leaf Malawi Corporate Affairs and Communications Director Limbani Kakhome last week said having the law going through another amendment within three years speaks to what he rated as the level of consultations done, “and a repeat of such would be costly”.

“Our main concern or view is we need to look at how we formulate legislation and policies. We are seeing a growing trend of a lack of genuine consultation. Developing legislation is expensive; we need to be able to do it for the long term,” Kakhome said.

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