Players in the tobacco industry have proposed postponement of the tabling of the reviewed Tobacco Industry Act.
The Act which regulates the production, manufacturing and marketing of tobacco in Malawi became effective in June 2019, replacing the repealed old Tobacco Act of 1970.
However, since its passing there have been calls from both growers and players as well as stakeholders on the need to review the legislation and barely three years, the reviewed Act is scheduled for tabling.
Meanwhile, one Tobacco player JTI Leaf Malawi has proposed for Parliament to postpone tabling the bill in parliament to give room for thorough consultations with relevant stakeholders.
Limbani Kakhome – Corporate Affairs and Communications Director for JTI Leaf Malawi has told MIJ Online that stakeholders needed to exhaust the recommendations before the reviewed Act goes to Parliament to ensure all areas of concern are ironed out.
For instance, Kakhome disclosed that stakeholders were only engaged once for consultations and since then there has been no further engagement or feedback on recommendations submitted by industry players.
“Our main concern is that we are seeing a growing trend of a lack of genuine consultation. Last time we met as industry to consult on this Act was 20 May 2020 and since then there has been a blackout of where this Bill of amendment is.
When you don’t engage stakeholders, you will find that the bill is taken to parliament and after passing, you have stakeholders complaining that their views were not incorporated.” Said Kakhome
Of particular interest, he cited the prohibiting of Tobacco growers from providing farm inputs of other crops to tobacco farmers which according to Kakhome, defeats the whole essence of crop diversification in the sector.
“My company position on this issue is saying that perhaps we should have a transparent calendar of engagements between now and when the bill is presented. If we can achieve adequate consultations between now and November that should be cleared mapped out, but other than that perhaps we should postpone to the next sitting where then the calendar is made transparent to everyone to make sure that this legislation is evidence based. Kakhome explained
However, Tobacco authorities have refused to bow down to calls to conduct further consultations on the reviewed Tobacco Industry Bill which is set to be tabled in parliament.
Telephorous Chigwenembe-Spokesperson for Tobacco Commission has told us there was no need for more consultations as relevant stakeholders were already engaged.
“With regards to when a draft law is taken to parliament, we have no control over that, that’s the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice whether to have it tabled in the November sitting or not. However, we did our work, we facilitated consultations and were convinced and still are convinced that we conducted enough consultations and relevant stakeholders gave their inputs. We believe that whatever will be taken to parliament will be for the good of the industry and Malawi but as to when the bill is tabled into parliament, we do not have control over that,”explained Chigwenembe.