Senior Malawi government officials including the police say tobacco smuggling to neighbouring countries will hurt the economy if Malawians living in the border districts do not work closely with the law enforcers.
Tobacco which is Malawi’s number one forex earner wires in about 60 percent of foreign earnings and contributes about 13 percent to the national economy.
The crop has over the years been smuggled into Zambia and Mozambique through the country’s porous borders, particularly in Mchinji.
Speaking during a meeting organised by the Malawi Police Community Policing team at Mkanda Secondary School in Mchinji on Wednesday, Minister of Tourism Wildlife and Culture Rachel Mazombwe Zulu said it is important to tighten security in the borders so that tobacco produced in the country is sold here.
“We do not want to enrich our neighbours. Our tobacco should be sold here so that the economic recovery plan is successful. Mchinji is one district where some unscrupulous businesspeople want to externalise our tobacco, but this year this should not happen,” said Zulu.
Deputy Commissioner of Police, who is also head of the community policing at Area 30, Masauko Katchule Medi, confirmed that most of the tobacco smuggled outside the country goes out through Mchinji.
He warned police officers manning the roadblocks that they will be punished if they are discovered to aid smugglers.
“There are reports that some police officers charge K500 per bale of tobacco from smugglers so that it is easily smuggled. We are warning the officers that this is a crime and they will pay for it,” said Medi.
Mchinji district commissioner Gasten Macheka encouraged chiefs in the district to be on the lookout for smugglers and report them to police.
Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) chief executive officer Dr. Bruce Munthali said any leaf that is smuggled across the border is a loss to the country.