The deal should have been operational by now.
Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and ZimbabaweÃ¢â‚¬â€key players in the blocÃ¢â‚¬â€want to control prices and buyers as well as establish processing plants for value-addition.
MalawiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Secretary for Industry and Trade Newby Kumwembe said this week that the plan continues to stall because of change of people mandated to oversee the project to other positions.
“Handing over what was previously discussed has not been done in some instances. Other technocrats are preoccupied with other duties, resulting in delays,” he said.
Kumwembe said Malawi has pushed the issue to its limit and awaits other countries from the region to reinitiate discussions on the matter.
“As Malawi, we are still consulting through the draft memorandum of understanding [MoU] that was signed by five countries two years ago. You cannot push others,” he said.
Kumwembe added that other States want to reconcile the different systems of tobacco policies existing in their countries before coming up with a final legally binding document.
“This is a regional bloc and no country wants to be in a hurry with the draft MoU already in place,” he added.
On his arrival from Mozambique in 2009 where he held talks with Mozambican president Almando Guebuza on how to boost tobacco production in light of poor prices, President Bingu wa Mutharika indicated that Maputo had also endorsed the idea.