Ministry vows to fight for tobacco farmers

Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development says Malawi cannot abandon tobacco farming even as the World Health Organisation (WHO) leads an anti-smoking lobby that threatens the leaf’s growing.

Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Kondwani Nankhumwa said yesterday government is ready to fight for tobacco farmers welfare because the crop contributes to the social and economic development of the country.

Tobacco leaf at the auction floors

WHO is championing an anti-smoking campaign that threatens tobacco farming—an activity that contributes around 13 percent of Malawi’s gross domestic product (GDP), rakes in around 60 percent of foreign currency earnings and accounts for 25 percent of tax revenue.

Speaking during a Tobacco Coalition for Eastern and Southern Africa Conference also known as T5 Meeting held yesterday in Lilongwe, Nankhumwa said Malawi cannot abandon the crop because it is a pillar of the country’s economy; hence, calling members present to come up with a solution to present to the Conference of Parties in Netherlands next year.

He said: “Malawi is the biggest producer of burley tobacco in the world, and the economy of this country depends on this crop. Tobacco is, therefore, the crop that the country cherishes, and which my ministry cannot afford to ignore.”

“As you are aware that there is world anti-smoking lobby to discourage the growing of tobacco. This is a grouping of five countries which has come together to find strategies to ways of feeding in our concerns to those countries who are advocating for the ban of tobacco, before that we are meeting to discuss because we still need to grow tobacco for it helps our national developments. We will discuss ways which will help us tell people the dangers of smoking tobacco to keep it as our forex earner.”

Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama) president Felix Thole acknowledged the health hazard posed by tobacco, but he said it is important for tobacco ban lobbyists to think of the crop’s economic benefits to Malawi.

“We still have demand for tobacco even for the next growing season, but we know the future is uncertain, so we must implore on diversifying,” he said.

The T5 comprises of tobacco growing countries namely Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, who meet to discuss issues on tobacco in their respective countries.

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