Sugar cane Growers Association of Malawi (Sugam) has hailed the Ministry of Trade for committing to table the Sugar Bill in December’s scheduled meeting of Parliament, saying the Bill is long overdue.
Sugam executive secretary Geoffrey Nkata said in a written response on Tuesday that they believe the law will bring sanity in the sugar production value chain currently being affected by the lack of legal framework.
He said as Sugam, they view the commitment of government to table the Sugar Bill as encouraging.
“The law will go along way to address some of the challenges which the smallholder sugar cane growers have been facing,’ said Nkata.
Minister of Trade Sosten Gwengwe admitted in an interview on Tuesday that it has taken government a long time to have the Bill ready for debate in Parliament.
“I will personally be following up with the Ministry of Justice to ensure that the Bill comes to Parliament for debate in the next sitting of Parliament,” he said.
Before Parliament concluded the recent Budget Meeting, First Deputy Speaker of Parliament Madalitso Kazombo announced that Parliament will meet in December for general business before another meeting in February for the Mid-Term Budget Review.
There have been protracted disagreements, especially on pricing, among other issues.
One of the concerned sugar cane growers Henry Chimunthu Banda, who is also Nkhotakota North lawmaker, has been pushing for better pricing of division of proceeds from sugar cane between growers and sugar companies, notably Illovo Sugar (Malawi) plc, to ensure growers get good return on investment.
For instance, the recent share price for sugar and molasses payable to sugar cane farmers by listed Illovo Malawi moved from K302 000 per tonne in 2018/19 season down to K253 000 per tonne in 2019/20 season and has reduced further to K225 000 in the current 2020/21 season.
Chimunthu Banda has been questioning why there is a drop in prices when prices for inputs such as fertiliser and herbicides have been rising to the disadvantage of growers.
Illovo has been attributing the drop in prices to the influx of illegal and imported sugar, among others.
Over the past decades the country has been producing sugar without a law to protect the product despite it being the third largest foreign exchange earner after tobacco and tea.