The International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA), a non-profit worldwide organisation representing millions of farmersâ€™ concerns, has accused drafters of new tobacco guidelines for lacking understanding on the cropâ€™s farming.
The World Health Organisationâ€™s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC) has drafted new proposals which could come into force in November to regulate the growing of tobacco, a lifeline for more than 30 million farmers worldwide.
ITGA chief executive officer Antonio Abrunhosa, in latest comments published on their website, said the Conventionâ€™s current policy recommendations want to force millions of tobacco growers and labourers out of business through â€˜punitive measuresâ€™.
The measures include; banning minimum support prices and leaf auctions, restricting production of tobacco by regulating the seasons in which tobacco can be grown, reducing the area allocated for tobacco farming, banning financial or technical support for tobacco farmers and dismantling all bodies connecting growers with governments.
Abrunhosa argues that the Convention does not realise that there are no economically viable crop alternatives for tobacco farmers to grow.
â€œThey also refuse to acknowledge the seemingly obvious, artificial restrictions on tobacco farming will not solve the problem of tobacco consumption,â€ he said.
Abrunhosa said despite that the proposed actions will directly threaten the jobs and livelihoods of tobacco farmers and labourers, the WHO have refused to listen to the perspective of these growers when developing the guidelines.
When proposals come into force, Malawi just like many other tobacco growing countriesâ€™ economies could be in jeopardy.
In the case of Malawi where the leaf accounts for about 60 percent of the countryâ€™s foreign exchange earnings, contributes 13 percent to the national economy and supports millions directly or indirectly, the proposals could send the economy into a tailspin.
Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama) chief executive officer Graham Kunimba last month said time has come for governments worldwide to act and oppose the â€˜draconian measuresâ€™.
He said tobacco is the only crop that guarantees an income for farmers; hence, the need to protect them.
Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) chief executive officer Dr Bruce Munthali told Business News that they are studying the proposals and will soon find the way forward.