Malawi: Tobacco Company Rebukes Malawi Child Labor Claims

1 November 2019

British American Tobacco giant disputed claims made by UK law firm that it profits from child and forced labor on tenant farms in Malawi. It follows a pre-action letter sent on behalf of 2000 tenant farmers.

A tobacco company defended its policies preventing child labor on Friday, after claims that its farmers were forced to use their children to work on farms in Malawi.

In a statement, British American Tobacco (BAT), the accused company, said it took the issue of child labor "extremely seriously." The company added that it "strongly agrees that children must never be exploited, exposed to danger or denied an education."

Simon Cleverly, BAT spokesperson, added that BAT business standards do not condone any type of forced labor and seek to ensure the welfare of children at all times.

BAT's comments run contrary to accusations made by UK-based lawyers Leigh Day in a pre-action letter on Thursday accusing BAT of reaping huge profits from both child and forced labor.

Leigh Day, which advocates for some 2000 Malawian tobacco tenant farmers, argues that the amount paid to tenant growers is too low for them to employ additional farmers.

Instead, growers are left with no choice but to make their children work so enough leaves can be harvested to earn enough and meet contracts with tobacco leaf buyers.

Last season, many tobacco farmers earned on average no more than £100 - 200 (€116-235, $130-259) for the work of a family of five for 10 months.

BAT acquires tobacco from between 20,000 to 35,000 farms in Malawi.

dpa contributed to this report

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