Government is concerned about negative publicity on the use of forced child labour in the tobacco sector and its impact on sustainability and competitiveness of the crop in global markets, Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Minister, Kondwani Nankhumwa has said.
He was speaking in Lilongwe, on Thursday when he officially opened the 2019 ‘Tobacco Industry Conference’ at Ufulu Gardens Hotel.
There have been reports that the United States had suspended imports of all tobacco and tobacco products from Malawi for alleged forced and child labour practices.
Without making direct reference to the ban, Nankhumwa said government, through his ministry and that of Labour, Youth and Manpower Development, is addressing child and forced labour issues not only in the tobacco sector but in all other sectors.
“Government would like to assure you of its commitment to safeguard the sector through necessary policy reviews. Government is reviewing the tenancy system, which is a bone of contention but also perceived to be catalyst for child and forced labour,” he said, adding that government is devising policies aimed at protecting the integrity of the industry while responding and repositioning the country to global compliance and demands.
“Last year, government lobbied Parliament to conclude the review of the legislation guiding the tobacco industry. Parliament passed the Tobacco Industry Act, 2019, which His Excellency the State President Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika accented to last February, 2019.
“Let me acknowledge the contributions by all stakeholders to the content of the law. My appeal to all players is to ensure that we fully understand this law and comply with it in order to realise the much anticipated benefits,” said the minister.
He said government is also aware of the concerns from the industry and the tobacco growers on levels of profitability to tobacco growers.
“Government recognizes the importance of proper reward to growers for the sustainability of the tobacco sector. My ministry engaged consultants to review statutory levies applicable in the sector. I wish to inform you that the consultants are consolidating the findings from the review and the report is expected in due course,” he said.
Nankhumwa said another matter is about unauthorised charges, which negatively affect the take home income of tobacco growers.
“The new Act has now made it mandatory for stakeholders not to effect any charges unless done in line with the law. It is our expectation that the Tobacco Commission will enforce the law for the interest of our growers and all players in the industry,” he said.
Nankhumwa noted that another concern which, government has received from the tobacco industry is the use of forestation levy.
He said his ministry is liaising with the concerned parties in government to explore best ways of utilising the levy to attain the intended purpose.
“My ministry appreciates the efforts by various agents in making sure that tobacco remains sustainable through forestation drive,” he said.
He recognized the roles that tobacco merchants and customers are playing in fighting for the interests of Malawi and the respective tobacco growers.
“I am aware that you are playing a vital role in sustaining tobacco production not only for your own benefits but our country and the tobacco growers. As Malawi Government, we are committed to give our full support,” said Nankhumwa.
Nankhumwa said the conference was extremely important considering the strategic importance of tobacco to the economy of Malawi.
Secretary for Agriculture, Gray Nyandule Phiri, Controller of Agriculture Services, Dr. Alexander Bulirani, Chairman for Tobacco Commission, Inkosi M’mbelwa VI, CEO for Tobacco Commission, Kayisi Sadala, President of TAMA, Abel Kalima Banda, and CEO for TAMA, Felix Thole, among others, attended the event.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :