Despite facing the global anti-smoking lobby, a Comesa Business Council study has found that tobacco has a future as it is significantly contributing to the attainment of at least eight Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The eight goals include no poverty (1), zero hunger (2), quality education (4), gender equality (5), decent work, economic growth responsible consumption (8) and production (12) and life on land (15).
Among others, the study, titled Tobacco Sustainability in Africa, found that tobacco production is aiding farmers to get out of poverty, become more food secure and able to send their children to school. It alsosnures that both males and females participate in production and guarantees environmental conservation, among others.
In Malawi, the study found that over 1.7 million people are supported by the tobacco industry, meaning that if the anti-smoking lobbyists succeed, such a population would be rendered destitute socially and economically.
Reads the report in part: “The global drive against consumption of tobacco products has a significant impact on the sustainability of the tobacco industry. This will ultimately affect the tobacco, farmers in tobacco growing countries.
“There is need to increase evidence-based research to highlight the impact and contribution of tobacco farming. Furthermore, to increase advocacy and widely distribute studies to ensure a balanced approach to tobacco regulation.”
Tobacco Commission (TC) corporate planning and development manager Hellings Nasoni asked for more time to respond to a questionnaire.
However, last November, in a statement, TC said the future of tobacco remains intact despite some challenges facing the industry.
“The country is yet to identify a competitive crop or another best alternative to tobacco. Until we reach that stage where we shall have an alternative crop that will be raking in much foreign exchange as tobacco, we will still be relying on tobacco,” read sthe statement in part.
JTI Leaf Malawi corporate affairs and communications director Limbani Kakhome said the future of tobacco for the country remains bright as long as Malawi deals with some concerns in the industry, including traceability issues.
Tama Farmers Trust chief executive officer Nixon Lita while admitting the threats posed by the anti-smoking policies, said there is need for the industry to ensure that the crop is being produced under strict conditions that adhere to good agricultural practices.
He cited approved seeds, chemicals, environmental sustainability and recommended labour practices among others, as strict conditions.
However, economist Milward Tobias, who is executive director of Centre for Research and Consultancy, observed that Tobacco is a dying crop and that there is no future in it. He suggested that Malawi should look for alternatives.
Anti-smoking lobbyists led by the World Health Organisation have been highlighting the health risks associated with tobacco production, marketing and consumption without necessarily highlighting other equally important benefits accrued to people.
Tobacco remains the country’s main forex earner and contributes about 15 percent to the country’s gross domestic product.
At the end of the marketing season on August 28 last year, the country raked in $173.5 million (about K129 billion) from 113 million kilogrammes (kg) sold.
This was a drop from last year’s $237 million (K177 billion) out of 165.6 million kg sold.