The United States (US) has dismissed allegations that it is advocating abolishment of the auction system of tobacco marketing in the country.
In November 2019, the US government issued an order; restraining entry of any tobacco deemed to have been produced using child or forced labour.
Then rumour had it that the Withhold and Release Order (WRO) was effected to have auction marketing system abolished.
But in a response to an emailed questionnaire, US Embassy Public Affairs Officer, Douglas Johnston, said the US law only prohibits importation of goods produced by forced or child labour.
“The WRO is a law enforcement action based on evidence of forced and child labour in the Malawi tobacco sector. The WRO holds tobacco buyers responsible for their supply chain, which they must demonstrate is free of forced and child labour. The sole purpose of the WRO is to keep goods produced by forced and child labour out of the United States,” Johnston said.
He said only Alliance One Limited has this far demonstrated sufficient evidence that its supply chain is free of forced and child labour and remains the only company currently allowed to export local tobacco into the US under the WRO.
Tobacco Association of Malawi Trust, Abiel Kalima Banda, said measures have been put in place to help end child labour in the tobacco supply chain.
“From this year, we have mandated the Agriculture Research and Extension Trust to work with all farmers that are not on contract and teach them ways of producing the crop without tenancy and child labour. So, we are confident next year we will not have problems with the US market,” Banda said.
In a separate interview, Tobacco Commission Chief Executive Officer, Kaisi Sadala, said it is a government policy to have both the auction and contract markets.
“According to the current tobacco industry law, Section 67 (3) obligates all buyers to be involved in both the auction and contract marketing systems so that is the government’s policy.
“Abolishing the auction market will only be when government feels that is the right way to do things,” Sadala said.
The auction market carters for 20 percent of all the tobacco produced in Malawi.
The US provides an 8 percent market for Malawi tobacco.