Tobacco Commission chief executive officer Kayisi Sadala has challenged government to account for the Forestry Levy that tobacco growers have been remitting, saying there is nothing to show for it on the ground.
The levy was introduced in 2012 for forest management and restoration programme in some tobacco growing districts, including Dowa, Kasungu, Mchinji, Ntcheu, Mzimba, Rumphi, Balaka and Mangochi.
Since then, government has been deducting tobacco farmers and buyers between K800 000 and K1 million annually for afforestation purposes in the country.
But Sadala said TC does not know how the K5 billion which has been accumulated over the years has been used for.
“If this money was utilised properly, by now the concerned districts would have something to show for it,” he said.
Sadala said there is need to review the Tobacco Industry Act, 2019 to clearly define the use of the levy.
Speaking when the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture visited Mpherembe in Mzimba on Friday to monitor progress of the 2020/21 tobacco registration, the committee’s chairperson Sameer Suleman said they are surprised and shocked with the revelations that there is nothing to show for the Forestry Levy in the tobacco industry.
“It is sad to note that although government has been collecting money for afforestation from the tobacco industry, we still have a serious deforestation problem,” he said.
Suleman said his committee will take up the issue with the Ministry of Forestry and Natural Resources to find out how the money is being used.
“We will also review the Act so that the funds are not being abused in any way,” he said.
The tobacco industry, which contributes about 60 percent to foreign exchange earnings and 13 percent to the national economy, uses trees tree for curing tobacco, particularly flue-cured.