Tobacco Commission (TC), formerly Tobacco Control Commission, says the new Tobacco Act gives more powers to the regulator to bring sanity to the industry and ensure that farmers are not ripped off.
TC chief executive officer (CEO) Kayisi Sadala, who described the Tobacco Industry Act 2019 as a complete departure from the old Act of 1938 which was later reviewed in 1971, said tobacco growers will now be protected as there are stringent penalties, including huge monetary fines and imprisonment.
The fines range from K2 million to K10 million and jail terms of up to five years.
He said in an interview on Thursday that the Act has addressed issues of tobacco overproduction, use of non-certified tobacco seed, irregularities in growers’ registration and transportation, tobacco processing, grading and exporting as well as the uprooting of tobacco plants and stalks, among other challenges gripping the tobacco sector.
“The old law was just too flat and we had no legal framework governing both auction and contract farming,” said Sadala.
He said the law also outlaws tobacco buyers from growing tobacco or engaging in transportation or grading of the leaf, among others.
The law has necessitated the change of regulator’s name and composition of its board of directors, reducing its number from 17 to five commissioners.
“Five people will be nominated and shall represent tobacco buyers, smallholder farmers, medium to large-scale farmers, service providers in the tobacco industry and one person appointed by a minister and has sufficient knowledge and experience of tobacco industry, plus three ex-officials who are Secretary for Agriculture, Secretary to the Treasury and Secretary for Trade,” said Sadala.
Following the new law, all tobacco auction floors will change name to tobacco selling floors because they are now handling tobacco under contract farming or Integrated Production System (IPS) apart from auctioned tobacco.
On his part, Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama) CEO Felix Thole said farmers expect the new regulatory environment in the tobacco industry to improve in the wake of the new tobacco legislation.n