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Uncertainty over US tobacco ban lifting

FAULTED—Child labour in tobacco sector

Francis Kasaila

Malawi’s tobacco and related products risk losing a market in the United States (US) this year as the Withhold and Release Order imposed last year still stands.

This is despite a visit to the country by US government officials in November last year to among other things, discuss progress made in ensuring that local tobacco is not produced using child and forced labour.

The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued an order banning entry of Malawi tobacco into the country following allegations of child and forced labour in the tobacco industry.

On November 1, 2019, the CBP announced the order stressing that such products will be detained at all US ports of entry.

According to CBP’s statement issued at the time, the WRO was based on information collected by the agency that reasonably indicates some tobacco from Malawi is produced using forced labor and forced child labor.

This means that importers of such products will be required to offer proof that their tobacco and tobacco-containing products do not include tobacco from Malawi that was produced with labor prohibited under US law.

US Embassy Public Affairs Officer, Douglas Johnston, yesterday said he was not aware of any new developments on the order.

He, however, asked for some time to give details on the matter.

But in an interview earlier, Minister of Agriculture, Francis Kasaila, said the government is still engaging US counterparts on the order.

“We are talking to them, there are issues that they have raised, they were in the country a few months ago to see what efforts we have made and I am hoping that during this marketing season they will appreciate how much buyers are offering growers.

“At an appropriate time for sure a decision will be made whether to lift the order or have a mechanism on verifying the issues they have raised. The critical issue we have to address is the claim that there is forced labour and child labour,” Kasaila said.

Tobacco Commission (TC) Chief Executive Officer, Kaisi Sadala, said that the US offer a market that consumes eight percent of tobacco and related products produced in the country.

He was confident that the country made a good impression when the US delegation visited the country last year.

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