Tama punches holes in new Tobacco Act

Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama) has said despite the new Tobacco Industry Act being friendly to tobacco growers, it has some provisions that need to be revised.

Speaking on the sidelines of a stakeholders outreach programme launch in Rumphi on Saturday, Tama chief executive officer Felix Thole said the new Act prohibits deduction of a service fee through the market operator which he said will work to the disadvantage of farmers and the association.

Tobacco has always been the country’s main export earner

He said: “As an association, we have some services that we offer to farmers. Those services have been there since time immemorial. These are satellite depots dotted across the country which assist farmers to curb unnecessary increases in transportation prices.

“The law says no deduction of a service fee through the market operator. That has slightly affected us because it means we have to close all the depots since we were depending on the service fee to run the services.”

Thole said the association plans to engage authorities to revise such a provision.

He, however, said the law is good because it is trying to curb malpractices some organisations were doing such as charging service fees without offering the service to the farmer.

Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development controller of agriculture services Masankho Bulirani described the new Act as a “living document” that is subject to further amendments.

“As government, we believe we have a good law which protects the farmers and it gives equity to everyone, whether it is the grower, buyer, transporter, grader or a processor,” he said.

Bulirani said the process of coming up with the law was “comprehensive and consultative enough” where they met all concerned stakeholders in the tobacco industry.

Tobacco Commission board chairperson Inkosi ya Makosi M’mbelwa V said the new law has been designed to protect the grower throughout the value chain of tobacco production and marketing.

None compliance to the provisions in the Act attracts stiffer fines and imprisonment ranging from K2 million to K10 million and jail terms of up to five years.

The Tobacco Industry Act was gazetted on February 22 2019.

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