More pressure has mounted on Malawi following revelation from the Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama) that the World Health Organisation (WHO)â€™s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) is seeking to have tobacco growing abolished by 2025.
The tobacco industry supports the livelihoods of roughly 12 percent of the 14 million Malawians along the production-to-marketing value chain.
The leaf also accounts for around 13 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and wires in about 60 percent of total export earnings.
Thus, if abolished, the move could also see Malawi struggle to build foreign reserves for imports, bleed jobs and hit the economy hard through loss of output.
Tama president Reuben Maigwa informed President Joyce Banda when she opened the associationâ€™s 24th annual congress in Lilongwe on Thursday that FCTC, through their working committees, have circulated measures, recommendations and guidelines on FCTCâ€™s article 17 and 18.
“In brief, the measures seek to abolish tobacco growing by the year 2025, abolish contract growing since it encourages tobacco farming, stop financial institutions from providing finance to tobacco farmers and abolish tobacco grower associations by the year 2015,” said Maigwa.
He said the measures will be discussed during the forthcoming fifth conference of parties (CoP5) meeting slated to take place in South Korea in November 2012.
The global tobacco industry has in recent years been facing international pressure from the FCTC guidelines which relate to alternative crops and sustainable environmental management.
Among others, the guidelines, whose implementation has been delayed to the CoP5 this year, propose a ban on ingredients necessary for the production of blended tobacco products, which constitute about 50 percent of world demand.
He, therefore, called for immediate policy changes within the tobacco industry to be championed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, saying “it is good to be forewarned in order to be forearmed.”
Maigwa also said Tama, the countryâ€™s biggest and oldest tobacco association, was delighted that government sent a high-powered delegation to the last CoP meeting in Uruguay in 2010, although as observers since Malawi is not yet party to the conference.
As observers during the high-level meeting, the Malawi delegation, in collaboration with the International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA), made an indelible mark on the outcome of the meeting to the extent that the banning of burley tobacco never materialised.
Maigwa, however, suggested that one option to dealing with the FCTC is to venture into Integrated Tobacco Production Systems (ITPS) which, he said, encompasses measures that deal away with the vices the anti-tobacco lobbyists are capitalising on such as child labour and good agricultural practices.
On her part, President Banda said she is aware that the â€˜warâ€™ on tobacco continues through the FCTC and that problems currently being faced are a result of the implementation of the convention.
She said, understandably, the FCTC will continue to take its toll by way of having several negative implications on production, marketing and consumptions.
“For sure, we all know that the FCTC has succeeded in reducing the consumption of tobacco in some parts of the world,” she said.