By Chimwemwe Mangazi:
The Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama) has expressed hope that it will be accorded a place at the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) which will enhance a strategic exist of the industry and preserve the economic well-being of growers in the country.
This follows meetings the association, under the banner of the International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA), had with the World Health Organisation (WHO), the World Bank and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (Fao) early this month to lobby for a place at FCTC where they could safeguard the interests of poor farmers when decisions are made.
This comes against the background that the tobacco industry is facing pressure from the United Nations (UN), especially due to the anti-smoking lobby championed by the WHO which is also forcing buyers to reduce volumes of the crop each year.
Tama Chief Executive Officer, Felix Thole, said representatives of various UN organisations were considerate of the contribution that tobacco makes towards the economy and will respond to the issue of representation at the convention by next month.
“When we get a seat at the convention it will mean that some drastic decisions that are made that impinge on farmers will be taken away or reduced so that a farmer is able to produce the crop and get the benefits until such a time that alternatives are in place,” Thole said.
He further indicated that the World Bank has given an opportunity to Malawi and Zambia to pitch diversification projects for tobacco growers which, if proven viable, will receive funds from the Bank.
“We had an audience with the World Bank and an official responsible for loans indicated that Malawi and Zambia have been given a window that the two countries could still access funding on projects that would assist the farmers to diversify from tobacco,” Thole added.