Tobacco industry players led by Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama) have expressed worry over the continued delay to enact the draft Tobacco Act, which many believe will create a win-win situation between buyers and growers.
The draft Tobacco Act is yet to be presented to Parliament for deliberation and eventual passing.
The delay to enact the reviewed Act is in sharp contrast to promises by Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Allan Chiyembekeza who told Business News in February this year that the Act will “soon” be tabled in Parliament and would help farmers get good tobacco prices, among other benefits.
But almost six months down the line and with Parliament adjourned sine die, Tama said it is high time government and all relevant parties involved in reviewing the Act stopped dilly-dallying.
Tama president Reuben Maigwa said on Tuesday that they are worried about continued delay to enact the draft piece of legislation, saying currently farmers are losing out due to the absence of the revised Act.
“It is in our interest as farmers to have an encompassing Tobacco Act which is not the case of now,” he said.
Maigwa said if due processes are completed for the Act to become a law, the legislation will safeguard the interests of tobacco growers.
Maigwa’s views were echoed by Tama chief executive officer Graham Kunimba, who said the outdated Act in place “is not encompassing growing needs of ordinary tobacco farmers.”
“As it is now, farmers are feeling insecure with the delay to finalise the review process. We hope the new law will help safeguard our interests in so many ways,” he said.
JTI Leaf (Malawi) Limited managing director Fries Vanneste earlier told journalists in Lilongwe that there was need for a comprehensive market reform in the tobacco sector, saying it is the only way to benefit both tobacco growers and merchants.
“As a company, we realise that we can only attain meaningful reforms once we review the current Tobacco Act,” he said.
When Vice-President Saulos Chilima opened this year’s Tama annual congress in Lilongwe, he said government is committed to ensuring that the new Tobacco Act is taken through the processes quickly for enactment.
Chilima said the quick enactment of the Act will ensure that tobacco industry players operate in line with the dynamics of the current developments within the industry.
“Through the new Act, which has been reviewed, government will ensure that a farmer is a priority and is fully covered and protected,” he said.
Tobacco is the country’s major foreign exchange earner and contributes about 60 percent of the country’s forex proceeds and 13 percent to the economy.