The World Health Organisationâ€™s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC) latest proposals wants a complete ban of bank loans to tobacco growers.
If implemented, the proposals could render millions of tobacco growers in Malawi and other countries destitute.
The proposals are expected to be tabled at the forthcoming Conference of Parties (CoP) five meeting in Seoul, South Korea in November, according to a letter by the International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA) chief executive officer Antonio Abrunhosa to all ITGA member countries, including Malawi.
Abrunhosa has informed Malawi and other ITGA members that FCTC new proposals also want to ban contracts between growers and buyers, the dismantling of any government or official bodies related to tobacco growers and any technical assistance for the growers.
â€œIf these measures go forward, the consequences will be devastating for millions of farmers and their families while the positive impact on public health will be negligible,â€ he says in the letter dated September 13 2012.
Tobacco industry in Malawi supports millions of livelihoodsâ€”estimated at 12 percent of the total population from production to marketingâ€”apart from contributing 13 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP).
The ITGA boss has since asked Malawi to join other countries to â€˜actively rejectâ€™ the FCTC recommendations to â€˜artificiallyâ€™ reduce tobacco farming.
Adds Abrunhosa: â€œExperience teaches us that in order to ensure these absurd proposals from the FCTC are not affirmed, we must continue to demonstrate that we are willing to fight for our cause. We are confident that, with your [Malawi Government] support, we can achieve even greater impact.â€
He also explains in the letter that it is likely that some elements of Article 17 and 18 of FCTC will be put to the vote at the November CoP five meeting which, he argues, if ratified, could enter into law in the 175 countries who have endorsed the FCTC.
â€œWe must make our voices heard as the experts in this debate and those who will be most directly affected by these unreasonable, overly restrictive and punitive measures,â€ he says.
Meanwhile, the Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) while confirming to have received the ITGA complaints through the letter, has since described the proposals on the card as worrisome to the countryâ€™s tobacco sector, among other dangers.
TCC chief executive officer Dr Bruce Munthali has also described the drafting and formulation of the new proposals as â€˜not consultative enoughâ€™ arguing FCTC is jut imposing most of the issues to countries such as Malawi.
â€œThese proposals have not been fully discussed by most member countries and they have just been imposed on us. There should have been a process of consultation,â€ said Munthali in an interview last weekend.
He, however, expressed optimism that the drafted proposals may not be taken on board during the next CoP meeting adding that Malawi will be sending a high powered delegation aimed at fighting the adoption of the newly drafted proposals by FCTC.
Munthali said TCC had already sent its representatives to the CoP five preparatory meeting in Dakar, Senegal, to help fight negative proposals by the FCTC, among other related issues.
He also assured tobacco growers that currently, demand for tobacco internationally is still high and urged them to look after their crop if the leaf is to fetch good prices in the next selling season.
The newly drafted proposals by FCTC come barely few months after the Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama) informed Malawians during its 24th annual congress in Lilongwe that FCTC also wants to abolish tobacco farming by 2025.
International tobacco experts observe that the FCTC has succeeded in reducing the consumption of tobacco in some parts of the world and that there has been a corresponding effect on production.