Tobacco farmers had recently requested that the high court should stop the Tobacco Commission (TC) to operationalise the new Tobacco Industry Act of 2019, which according to the growers, is exploiting them.
Among others, the Act restricts the presence of the growers on auction floors, therefore allowing TC to sell on their behalf. On the other hand, the Act imposes a penalty of 75% of the proceeds of all sales of excess tobacco produced beyond the stipulated quota. Rejecting the request of the injunction, Judge Ruth Chinangwa said the economy would have suffered if the growers were granted the injunction. “The simple reason for this is that tobacco is the backbone to the Malawi economy.”she said.
Last year, the new Act would not be applied, as it was announced amidst an already opened market. During the time, Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama) chief executive officer Felix Thole said that the Act would demotivate farmers, describing the development as a big blow to farmers because it means unprecedented losses will be incurred. “Our appeal is that we should wait till next year for full implementation of the provisions because the law came in while farmers had already grown the crop.” A year later, farmers reached out to the High Court for an injunction against the implementation of the Tobacco Industry Act, while also protesting the current system of selling tobacco, reporting the matter to Parliament to consider reviewing the Act.
Following the injunction rejection by the High Court, regulators will continue to implement the tobacco law.