France hurts Malawi tobacco prospects
Tobacco Association of Malawi (TAMA) has bemoaned French government’s newly passed law on plain packaging for tobacco products saying it will affect the economic sustainability of Malawi’s major export crop.
Towards the end of last year TAMA pleaded with France to reconsider its proposal to impose plain packaging for tobacco products fearing its consequences on Malawi’s economy but the French government has gone ahead with its decision and enacted the bill.
France made the decision to mandate plain packaging of cigarettes as part of an effort to reduce one of the highest rates of smocking among major European countries.
The international media reported that plain packaging will be enforced as part of a law when French Health Minister, Marisol Touraine, said his country would be joining the UK and Ireland in moving towards banning distinctive and alluring tobacco packaging.
Tama Chief Executive Officer, Graham Kunimba, has said the new law will impact negatively on tobacco farmers not only in Malawi but world over because France has a very high population of smokers.
“We are worried because they have gone ahead without regarding our request. As they start manufacturing cigarettes, packing them without proper branding, it will create problems because most smokers will not know the brand they smoke,” said Kunimba.
Kunimba added that buyer demand for this year for Barley tobacco is only 132 million kilogrammes against estimated production of 176 million kilogrammes. He further said this will have an impact on demand as it will be surpassed by supply.
Chairperson of Agriculture Committee in Parliament Felix Jumbe agreed with Tama saying Malawi’s economy depends on the gold leaf hence the decision made by France will reduce demand for tobacco.
“It is a worrisome situation indeed because once the demand for tobacco decreases our economy will be heavily affected as well,” said Jumbe.
Agriculture Minister, Allan Chiyembekeza, could not be reached on his phone to comment on the matter.
According to Tama, tobacco represents an income of over US$360 million and it accounts for approximately 14 percent of Malawi’s GDP.
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