Barely a year after its implementation, the Tobacco Commission (TC) says it is reviewing the Tobacco Industry Act to iron out emerging gray areas which are a bone of contention with stakeholders.
Since the implementation of the law started last season, the tobacco regulatory body has been facing challenges, including being dragged to court over the implementation of some sections of the Act.
In an interview on Tuesday, TC chief executive officer Joseph Chidanti Malunga said the review of the Act will help to align contentious issues with stakeholder’s expectations.
He said: “As a commission, we are in the process of reviewing the Act, we are soliciting comments from stakeholders, we want to relook at the law and once we complete compiling the comments we will send them to government.
“The environment keeps changing and we need to adapt as the law was only enacted in 2019, but we have a lot of people complaining.”
On his part, Tama Farmers Trust chief executive director Nixon Lita said they already submitted growers’ propositions to the Ministry of Agriculture, but said it was premature to disclose specific areas until they receive feedback from authorities.
“As Tama, we welcome the review process and hope that revisions in the yet to be agreed areas will assist to further uplift and modernise tobacco farming in this era when there’s a strong anti-tobacco campaign,” he said.
Agricultural development policy expert Tamani Nkhono Mvula said in an interview on Monday that with the review of the Act coming barely after a season of implementation shows that the first review process was not consultative enough.
“Tobacco is a political crop, therefore, there are many stakeholders with vested interests. I would advise that the current review process should not take too long because if it does, it will render some issues irrelevant,” he said.
Nkhono-Mvula advised the TC and those involved in conducting the review to be consultative enough in a thorough and transparent manner.
The new law, which was in its first year of implementation last growing season, was enacted to bring sanity in the tobacco industry and ensure that growers benefit from their toil.
Some of the contentious issues include how the law recognises associations and provisions on fines made by courts on violators of the law and barring of buyers from participating in the production of tobacco.
Recently, some associations dragged the TC to court for not being certified to operate under the new law.
Last year, only five tobacco associations—National Association of Smallholder Farmers, Tama Farmers Trust, Phindu Tobacco Growers Association, Farm Produce and Marketing Association and Mchikumbe Smallholder Farmers Association—qualified to operate in the 2020 tobacco market season.