The Ministry of Trade has operationalised the Control of Goods Act which will curtail free-for-all import and export of goods by unscrupulous traders.
In an interview on Tuesday, Minister of Trade Sosten Gwengwe said the Act will help to bring sanity on the commodity market and curb tendencies largely practised by foreign traders.
He said: “There has been rampant illicit export of commodities such as groundnuts and soy beans.
“There has been a tendency by foreigners to come from wherever and mop up our commodities. But now we have moved in to control and manage the situation.”
Gwengwe said about K30 billion annually is lost through illicit trade from oil seed commodities.
The minister said government will restrict imports of goods produced locally such as eggs and vegetables to protect the local industry.
In a statement released on Tuesday, the Ministry of Trade said the Act is a departure from the old one as it brings predictability, certainty and transparency to facilitate investments into different sectors of the economy.
The ministry said the list of restricted and prohibited goods will be published within a week and that traders engaged in import and export of goods are required to obtain a licence from the Ministry of Trade for goods covered under the Act.
On her part, Grain Traders and Processors Association of Malawi chairperson Grace Mijiga-Mhango said benefits of the Act are many, adding that if traders can have a coordinated system, it will help them plan accordingly and improve exports.
She said: “In the absence of the law, we have seen rampant informal export trade of local products largely by foreign traders to our disadvantage because we follow formal procedures and channels.
“They create unfair competition, they bring in dollars and change at the black market with higher margins, then buy and export informally at higher profits which give them an upper hand.”
The Control of Goods Act came into effect following its publishing in the government Gazette on July 16.
The law regulates importation and exportation of goods by restricting, banning or allowing exports and imports under licence.
For agriculture-based commodities, a trader is required to obtain an authorisation letter from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security before applying for a licence from the Ministry of Trade.
This means that any trader who imports or exports licensable goods without requisite licence commits an offence punishable by law.
The Act was passed in Parliament in May 2018 and stakeholders such as the European Union have been pushing for its operationalisation to ensure elimination of market distortions and create predictability.