The Tea Association of Malawi (Taml) says it enforces a policy requiring all tea estates not to buy any green leaf from smallholder growers that use child labour of any form, be it relatives or otherwise.
Taml chief executive officer Clement Thindwa said on Monday ahead of an international child labour conference, which starts in Lilongwe today, that the estates regularly deploy scouts around smallholder fields to monitor compliance.
â€œMost estates subscribe to the ethical tea partnership (ETP) standard certification which states that estates should not employ children. For compliance, estates are inspected biannually without notification by international certifiers,â€ he said.
He observed that teas that are not ETP certified are not bought in most European and American markets.
Thindwa said Taml has a policy that maintains and officially communicates directly to managers and those who signed an undertaking not to employ any underaged person.
â€œFailure to comply with the above policy results in instant dismissal of any manager involved in recruitment of under aged people,â€ he said.
Thindwa said the association understands what is contained in the Employment Act Number 6 of 2000 and has fixed 18 and 21 years as minimum age for employment in fields and factories, respectively.
He, however, said they face some challenges in verifying ages in the absence of birth certificates, but he is hopeful that the introduction of national identity cards will help curb the problem.
Taml has since donated K1 million (about $4 000) towards the child labour conference as a sign of commitment to eradication of child labour in Malawi, said Thindwa.