Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development has expressed hope that the long-awaited Tobacco Bill will be tabled in Parliament in June this year.
The ministry’s principal secretary Erica Maganga confirmed the dates in an interview in Lilongwe on Friday when asked why the Tobacco Bill, which is critical to end some challenges facing the industry, was delaying.
She said her ministry forwarded the draft Bill to the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs for drafting in t
he required format before it is referred to Cabinet.
Maganga said the tobacco industry is huge; hence, the need to get input from a wide range of stakeholders.
She said: “Once the Bill is passed, we hope it will make the industry more efficient and this is good news to both the buyers, growers, graders, floor operators as well as transporters because their challenges have been tackled in this Bill. But I cannot comment much for fear of emptying its contents.”
Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama) president Reuben Maigwa could not be reached for comment at the weekend but he is on record as having said that the Tobacco Bill would be a welcome development to many farmers who feel shortchanged in terms of prices.
This year’s tobacco marketing season has come amid a 33 percent over production against a demand of 158.1 million kg, according to the first round crop estimates released in February. The estimates had put production at 211 million kg.
Last year, Malawi produced 192 million kg of tobacco which earned the country $337.4 million (about K216.8 billion).
Tobacco is Malawi’s number one foreign exchange earner which accounts for about 60 percent of export earnings. In recent years, the crop has faced a number of challenges, including the worldwide anti-smoking lobby and low prices offered to farmers. n