Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama) has pleaded with France to reconsider its proposal to impose plain packaging for tobacco products, saying this will affect the economic sustainability of Malawi’s major export crop.
The French government is currently discussing the introduction of plain packaging for tobacco products to improve public health.
Towards the end of last year, France planned to mandate plain packaging of cigarettes as part of an effort to reduce one of the highest rates of smoking among major European countries.
The international media reported that plain packaging will be enforced as part of a law to be presented in coming months 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 such a measure would increase illicit trade.
“Plain packaging devalues the product and is easy to copy. The manufacturers of tobacco products will no longer have interest in supplying a product which has a brand value. This will inevitably lead to the use of cheaper tobacco and drive down the price of leaf tobacco. In the case of illicit trade, international leaf merchant companies, such as those operating here, have systems in place which prevent them from dealing with illegal cigarette makers and we, the tobacco growers, will suffer a request of demand,” he explained.
Kunimba also said tobacco is the most important crop for Malawi as it represents an income of over US$ 360 million.
“It counts for approximately 14 percent of our GDP. In addition tobacco growing provides a good livelihood for at least 350,000 farmers and their families, 70,000 hired labourers and employs about 10,000 in leaf processing factories and employs on full establishment in tobacco related institutions well over 10 percent of the Malawi’s population pegged at 15 million,” he said.
The Tama CEO also said the factory workers are normally people from the rural areas who migrate to town to work in a tobacco leaf processing factory for six to eight months after being deprived of any other occupation in agriculture at the end of the season.
“A very large portion of our leaf tobacco is exported to Europe and processed into cigarettes for the French market,” he said.
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