The Ministry of Agriculture says the Tobacco Industry Act (2019) review is at an advanced stage and will soon be presented in Parliament.
Speaking at the 33rd Tama Farmers Trust Annual Congress last week, Minister of Agriculture Lobin Lowe said one of the areas to be addressed in the review is child and forced labour.
He said: “We are working with the Ministry of Labour to put a legislation that bans tenancy labour in agriculture.
“Upon incorporation into law, government agencies concerned will be tasked to be conducting inspections to ensure adherence at all levels.”
During the official opening of the 2021 Tobacco Market at Kanengo President Lazarus Chakwera directed the ministry to review the Act, observing that the amendments done in 2019 left some grey areas.
Tama Farmers Trust president Abiel Kalima Banda said the review of the Act is one of the most important aspects of crop compliance in tobacco production and trading.
Tobacco Commission (TC) chief executive officer Joseph Chidanti Malunga said a review of the Act will help to align contentious issues with the people’s expectations, noting that laws are meant to serve the people.
He said: “The environment keeps changing and we need to adapt, the law was only enacted in 2019 but we have a lot of people complaining.
“Some concerns are genuine while some of them are questionable but at the end of the day, we will look at all the comments and decide.”
Agricultural development policy expert Tamani Nkhono-Mvula said the review of the Act which comes barely a season after implementation of the Act shows that the first review process was not consultative enough.
He said it does not make sense to review an Act a year after its enactment, saying it shows that the people involved in the initial review had vested interests when coming up with the Bill.
Nkhono-Mvula said: “Tobacco is a political crop, therefore, there are a lot of 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 for instance fines meted out today may not be regarded punitive 10 years from now.”
Tobacco is the country’s key cash crop but growers have been crying foul over the years due to, among others, unfair contracts and prices, hence, the new law provided for vetting of contracts by the TC between companies and growers to protect growers from exploitation.