LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-Ufuluwanga, a Malawian-bled Civil Society Organisation on Wednesday called for swift tabling of Tobacco Bill in the current sitting of Parliament under way in the capital Lilongwe.
The call comes as most tobacco farmers are said to subjected to poor pricing at the market coupled with hard access to farm inputs.
Therefore passing the bill into law will see farmers protected from economic injustices that accompanies the tobacco industry.
Ufuluwanga seeks to promote the social and economic development of Malawi, through responsible corporate and social accountability and; strategic partnership.
In a press statement dated June 13, and made available to the Maravi Post, the organisation is calling for the Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development to table the following tobacco and related bills in the current parliamentary sitting; the tobacco bill, the plant breeders bill and; the plant protection bill which in our opinion- when passed would strengthen the regulation of the tobacco industry and benefit both the tobacco growers and merchants
The Agriculture Minister Joseph Mwanamveka is yet to respond on the statement which is in full below;
Call for the tabling of Tobacco Bill
Ufuluwanga is a Malawian-bled Civil Society Organisation that seeks to promote the social and economic development of Malawi, through responsible corporate and social accountability and; strategic partnership.
Its vision is a Malawian society in which potential contribution of all people irrespective of their status, is recognized and effectively utilised for the development of their respective areas.
The organization was founded and duly registered on 4th May, 2012. Meanwhile Ufuluwanga is implementing a program called organized civic voices for a better tobacco industry in Malawi (OCVBTM) which aims at contributing towards promoting sustainable tobacco production.
In that regard, Ufuluwanga is calling for the Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development to table the following tobacco and related bills in the current parliamentary sitting; the tobacco bill, the plant breeders bill and; the plant protection bill , which in our opinion- when passed would strengthen the regulation of the tobacco industry and benefit both the tobacco growers and merchants.
Malawi’s economy is predominantly agrarian. The Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) III, notes that Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy, contributing close to a third of the country’s GDP.
According to IMF in 2015, tobacco comprised 30 to 40 percent of Malawi’s total exports, making up 11 percent of the country s gross domestic product, though most farmers continue to live in poverty.
However, Tobacco remains a strategic crop for Malawi and will remain so for the foreseeable future. It is the lead source of livelihood to over 1.5 million Malawians in the tobacco supply chain, and a contributor of up to 60% of the country’s foreign exchange.
Sadly, the tobacco farmer in Malawi, though regarded as a lead contributor to the national economy is considerably the least- subjected to arbitrary denial of the benefits of his own sweat and; unfair trade practices.
An important sector of the economy such as tobacco, deserves laws and regulatory frameworks that seek to protect and revitalize the industry.
It is therefore our considered view that if passed the bills will regulate the industry and help in addressing challenges in the tobacco industry to include pricing on both contract farming and auction sales.
We are hopeful that the bills will also serve to protect the growers from the exploitation they go through and deal with the cartel by the tobacco merchants that promote the unfortunate act of price fixing.
By taking the bill to parliament, the Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development will just be taking heed of the promise made by the president during the official opening of the tobacco sales in April,2018, to have the tobacco bill, the plant breeders bill and; the plant protection bill tabled in Parliament .
In the same vein, Ufuluwanga appeals to members of parliament to set aside their political differences and soberly deliberate and pass the bills in question.
We have a firm belief that passing the bills will strengthen government position in enforcing and regulating corporate practices in the tobacco industry and not the other way round as is now the case.
A productive, Competitive and resilient nation much touted in the MDGS III, can only be achieved when no one, to include tobacco farmers, is left out or behind.
Let us add value to farming by creating an enabling environment for curbing the exploitation of the tobacco farmers, promoting Sustainable Tobacco Production, Good Agriculture Practices and fair trade.
As a nation we should not take pride in seeing our Farmers being strangulated by unfair prices and competition and; their economic rights being thrown to the dogs.
We believe that proper regulation of the tobacco industry can lead to the promotion of a sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all and consequently to the elimination of poverty in Malawi
We finally remind both the Honorable Minister and members of Parliament in the August house of the tobacco farmers petition of 2015 to the government to change contract farming legislation to better protect their rights.
We are hopeful that the honourable members will grab this opportunity to answer the tobacco farmers who are their constituents, their relatives and fellow citizens by passing the bills and accordingly address their challenges.
2.Yassin Malata PhD.
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