Tobacco Farmers implicate PS in suspected cartels at Ministry of Agriculture

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Farmers have threatened to sue the government if it goes ahead to sign an illegal gentleman’s agreement through a Memorandum of Understanding with Tobacco Merchants to suspend the law which was enacted by parliament to regulate the Tobacco industry in the country and commence the procurement of the crop.

In a statement issued to the media, Chilufya Chishala who spoke on behalf of the farmers, said some individuals at the Ministry of Agriculture have connived with the merchants to suspend the law which regulates the tobacco industry as the merchants want to continue ripping off the farmers.

Chishala, who is a Tobacco farmer from Eastern Province, said signing an MoU will be tantamount to suspending the Republican Constitution thereby breaking the law and that farmers will not allow selfish individuals to benefit off their sweat.

He accused the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture of aiding the merchants in their bid to disregard the law saying “what sort of people are these who are respecting foriegners instead of their own.”

He said the PS has been dinning with tobacco merchants who owe government millions of Kwacha which can be used to settle a lot of government bills such as salaries for ailing universities.

“Tombwe and JTI is owing a lot of money to TBZ, Alliance One is also owing a lot of money to TBZ and those are the same people that the PS is sitting with and asking to facilitate for logistics for meetings while the workers at TBZ have gone for over five months without salaries paid. The PS is behaving like a landlord who accepts money for a bag of mealie meal from a tenant who owes him money in arrears and refuses to pay him even when he has the money.

“TBZ hasn’t monitored the production of tobacco, they are not operating, they are owing a lot of institutions because of the same people and those are the same people the PS is embracing. What type of people are these who are siding with foriegners instead of their own. Are these the kind of people the President has entrusted to preside over the affairs of government institutions? We strongly recommend that the President checks on some of these people as they are not only making government unpopular but that their actions have a potential to incite workers to rise against government. We are appealing to President Lungu, let him do his own investigations by sending independent people to TBZ and find out for himself what is happening in this industry,” he said.

Chishala a former board member of TBZ said with strict adherence to the law that regulates the industry, Tobacco has the potential to redeem the country economically.

“This is an industry that has got the capacity to redeem this nation economically. This country is far from producing tobacco to it’s full potential because of greedy, we can produce up to 500 million Kilos of tobaccco because we have the land and water to do so which can make us even forget about begging for credit from IMF but we lack the political will to do so. We are our own enemies. That is why we are urging the President himself to intervene in this issue because the people he has entrusted to protect the interest of Zambians are failing him.

“In the tobacco industry we have got the Tobacco Act, we have the SIs which the government enacted those are the only laws which the government should use to preside over the tobaccco industry anything outside the law has the potential to be challenged in the court of law. What the PS is proposing is an illigality and as farmers will not stand back and watch while selfish individuals break the law just to suit their personal interests at the expense of suffering farmers. We know that in these other countries where the crop is produced the authorities have stood firmly by the law in their regulation of the production of tobacco.”

He also accused the the PS of contradicting the aspirations of his own government.

“By not following the rules and regulations the mechants are refusing to have Zambian farmers graduate into independent growers. They want all Zambian farmers to be perpetually dependant on them with slavery working conditions.

“The PS in supporting these merchants contradicts the aspirations of the government in the SNDP which talks about farmers graduating to independent growers after three years. The refusal by merchants to buy the independent crop compels government to look for money so that it buys off the crop. These are the issues we are trying to avoid, we want to ensure that the law that governs the tobacco industry prevails,” he said.

Trouble has recently arisen in the tobacco industry due to the new Statutory Instruments which Government has enacted to regulate the industry which the merchants are fighting because it is seen to be favouring Zambian farmers.

SI 84 of 2018 seeks to create an environment which is fair and transparent for merchants, farmers and government as well as end slavery conditions in the tobaccco value chain as supported by the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

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One Response to Tobacco Farmers implicate PS in suspected cartels at Ministry of Agriculture

  1. While Chishala may have a point (not knowing the contents of Agreement) it is apparent to avoid wasting farmers’ efforts by letting the current tobacco crop go to waste. If the Agreement outlines how the market will be handled and spells-out how merchants will pay the arreas, why not go for it? With ubcertainty of a cutomerm, it may be expensive/loss for govt to buy the tobacco.

    KP
    April 23, 2019 at 12:20 pm
    Reply

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Start: 2019-07-01 End: 2019-07-31