Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Allan Chiyembekeza has taken a swipe at anti-tobacco lobbyists led by the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC), accusing them of producing unrealistic statements on tobacco.
Tobacco remains Malawi’s most important and strategic crop, accounting for about 60 percent of the country’s foreign exchange earnings.
Chiyembekeza, speaking when he opened a tobacco coalition meeting for the Eastern and Southern Africa in Lilongwe, said Malawi is aware that tobacco may cause diseases to human health.
He said: “However, tobacco does not stand alone in this. Other habits derived from the consumption of agricultural products are [also] dangerous.”
The minister cited alcohol, which he said is addictive and leads to diabetes and obesity and butter, which he said leads to increased cholesterol.
He added: “The producers of all these agricultural products, however, advertise them proudly and there are no restrictions in the way there are on tobacco. We cannot accept the discrimination and we need to find a way to resist it.”
Malawi, alongside other major tobacco producing countries, are fighting against WHO-FCTC articles and guidelines that seek to regulate the use of burley tobacco as an additive in the blending of cigarettes.
Chiyembekeza said the tobacco industry as a whole has never been afraid to take the fight against the anti-smoking lobbyists at each and every international conference organised by WHO under FCTC.
The two-day meeting drew participation from Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Geneva and South Africa.
Two weeks ago, representatives of tobacco growers from several African countries under the International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA) met in Lilongwe and discussed prevailing issues burdening the tobacco sector, including the regulation of leaf constituents, the increase in illicit trade of tobacco products, among others.