Parliament on Tuesday rejected Tobacco Industry Bill before referring it to four committees following reservations by some Parliamentarians.
The MPs noted what they called inadequate consultations, particularly from growers.
Currently, Malawi is using the Tobacco Act of 1972 which, among other things, places several restrictions on the growing of tobacco.
Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Joseph Mwanamvekha, who presented the bill, said there are changes in tobacco production, which accounts for about 15 percent of Malawi’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which have to be addressed.
For instance, Mwanamvekha said while smallholder farmers are now allowed to grow burley tobacco, the current bill goes against the provision, hence the need for change.
Commenting on the bill on behalf of Malawi Congress Party, Member of Parliament (MP) for Nkhotakota South East, Everson Makowa Mwale, said tobacco growers feel the bill was sponsored by buyers.
“I would also like to mention Agriculture Research and Extension Trust. This is a very important research institution but the bill is silent on it. That is why Malawi Congress Party is of the view that the bill should be referred to relevant committees,” he said.
Responding to the reading of the bill on behalf of People’s Party, Chitipa North MP, James Munthali, corroborated Mwale’s concern that tobacco growers have not been adequately consulted.
“The bill was long overdue but if growers are not consulted, it means we are not having a whole legislation. The growers are the main stakeholders and it would not be right to have a piece of legislation that does not consider their views,” Munthali said.
Parliament’s Agriculture Committee Chairperson, Joseph Chidanti Malunga, also supported the idea that the bill should be referred to relevant committees before it can be fully deliberated and passed.
However, some lawmakers are worried that the bill might not be passed during the current meeting which rises this Friday.
The committees to which the bill has been referred are Agriculture, Trade, Statutory Corporations and Natural Resources.