Government says it cannot abandon tobacco farming even as the World Health Organisation (WHO) leads an anti-smoking lobby that threatens the leaf’s growing.
WHO is championing an anti-smoking campaign that threatens tobacco farming—an activity that contributes around 13 percent of Malawi’s gross domestic product (GDP), rakes in around 60 percent of foreign currency earnings and accounts for 25 percent of tax revenue
But speaking during a Tobacco Coalition for Eastern and Southern Africa conference also known as T5 Meeting held yesterday in Lilongwe, Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Allan Chiyembekeza said Malawi cannot abandon the crop because it is a pillar for Malawi’s economy.
“Malawi is the biggest producer of burley tobacco in the world; and the economy of this country depends on this crop. Tobacco is, therefore, the crop that the country cherishes, and which my ministry cannot afford to ignore.
“Even if tobacco-finished products are deemed a risk for health, tobacco production sustains the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people and farmers. One particular concern for us is the current threat to exclude tobacco from international trade agreements. This is not only unfair but also risks becoming a precedent for other excessively restrictive legislation,” Chiyembekeza said.
President of International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA) Francois Van der Merwe acknowledged the health hazard of tobacco, but he said it is important for tobacco ban lobbyists to think of the crop’s economic benefits.