A statement released recently has revealed that Malawi tobacco farmers are accusing BAT and Imperial of knowingly facilitating unlawful and dangerous conditions, in which the farmers and their children have to build their own homes foraged from mud and thatch, live on a daily small portion of maize, work from 6am to midnight seven days a week, and have to borrow money to be able to feed their families throughout the season. The statement has also confirmed that the farmers are therefore suing the tobacco companies for negligence and exploitation, as the profits the companies make do not add up with their employees working conditions
The statement by the farmers’ representatives, Leigh Day solicitors alleges that the farmers are only paid after harvest, but only after their farming costs and loans have been deducted from their minimal wages.
Already the tobacco industry suffers low prices during the market season, as the pandemic has worsened matters for everyone in general. While Sugar farmers had also dragged Illovo Sugar Malawi to court over unfulfilled promises, it is evident that the government must enforce strict measures to protect farmers from exploitation. Statistics show that 70% of the population in Malawi live in rural areas, as they mostly depend on agriculture to earn a living. With Admarc struggling to buy produce from the farmers, they are prey to vendors that buy below gate prices and employers that exploit them.