Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) has said delays in revising the Tobacco Industry Act, coupled with a plethora of other local and challenges is are negatively affecting the leaf’s production and marketing in the country.
Speaking during the opening of this year’s tobacco marketing season at Kanengo Auction Floors in Lilongwe today, TCC board chairperson Inkosi Ya Makosi M’mbelwa V said the delay is compromising the body’s regulatory role in the tobacco industry.
President Peter Mutharika presided over the ceremony.
Said M’mbelwa: “On the global market, the major challenge is the anti-smoking lobby, which has had negative effects on our farmers resulting from reduced demand for Malawi tobacco, loss of livelihoods for tobacco farmers and reduced employment from tobacco related jobs.”
On the local front, M’mbelwa said challenges include low prices for the leaf especially on flue cured varies, fluctuation of the local currency against the US dollar from the period farmers obtain input loans to the time of payment and relatively high cost of production, such as fertilisers, seeds and chemicals in tobacco value chain.
“I am compelled to point out that delays in finalising legislative review of Tobacco Industry Act which is now at government level remains another major challenge. It is my sincere hope that this matter will receive the necessary attention so that then commission’s regulatory rule could be enforced effectively,” he added.
AHL Group chairperson Foster Mulumbe said many lives in the country still rely on tobacco. However, he said the cost of running tobacco market operations have gone extremity high, posing a great risk to the industry.
“To this extent, we would like to encourage government to embrace policies that would not hurt some sections of tobacco farmers until such a time when adequate alternatives will be in place. We are fully aware that government is working on high value long term policies which will make this country safe dependent,” he noted.
On his part, Mutharika said government always thinks about farmers, investors, and the economy, adding that the economy needs to grow with stability. He acknowledged the difficulties arising from the outdated law on the tobacco industry.
“Our situation as country demands decisive action in every sector, it’s time for tough decisions. Most urgently, we demand uncompromised quality of the leaf from every farmer and we demand fair prices that profit our farmers. But quality and pricing are symptoms of a deeper issue.
“We must create better regulation for the industry, provide affordable fertiliser for farmers and protect farmers from drought and climate change. The Tobacco Act is outdated and a review has already started. Ministry of Justice and Agriculture, this is your call,” he said.
This year’s marketing season comes amid overproduction by 33 percent against the demand of 158.1 million kilogrammes (kg), according to first round crop estimates which were released in February. The estimates had put production at 211 million kg.
Last year, Malawi produced 192 million kgs of tobacco which earned the country $337.4 million (about K216.8billion).