Officials from Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) and Tobacco Board of Zambia last week undertook a two-day route assessment to trace hot spots the leaf’s smugglers use between the two countries.
The exercise, which started on Wednesday and ended on Friday, saw the two teams visiting Muotcha in Mzimba, Lundazi, Mgubudu and Chipata in Zambia.
Available statistics show that Malawi loses about $30 million (about K13 billion) due to smuggling of the leaf to Zambia where it reportedly fetches better prices.
Business Review could not ascertain how much Zambia loses when traffickers take their tobacco to Malawi.
TCC chief executive officer (CEO) Bruce Munthali, in an interview, said they visited Zambia to trace areas where tobacco smuggling is rampant and find ways and means of stopping the illegal trade.
“We indeed carried out a detailed assessment of the borders of the two countries to trace routes which smugglers use. Even though sales have not started in both countries, we decided to carry out this assignment now because we lose more money because of this malpractice,” he said.
Munthali said some of the challenges they faced during the exercise included lack of clear demarcation of the borders and continued intermarriages between people living along the border.
“This was a worthwhile exercise and despite the challenges that we faced, we exchanged information on how we can repatriate the tobacco confiscated from smugglers and solve some of the problems people moving tobacco formally between the two countries face,” said Munthali.
Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama) president Graham Kunimba lauded TCC for taking a leading role in fighting illegal cross-border trade, saying they will support all efforts being undertaken to stop this malpractice.
He said Tama has also deployed its officers in all tobacco-growing areas to sensitise farmers on the dangers of selling tobacco outside the normal set markets.
“We support all efforts undertaken to stop farmers sending their tobacco to Zambia. This crop is important to the country because it generates foreign exchange, which helps us acquire fuel, drugs and other essential commodities.
“As Tama, we are also doing our part in sensitising farmers to the dangers of tobacco smuggling. Our plea is that all Malawians residing in border areas must also take part in stopping tobacco smuggling,” he said.
Tobacco is Malawi’s main foreign currency earner, contributing about 60 percent to the country’s forex earnings.