Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama) has said it supports the government’s decision to ratify the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC)—an anti-smoking treaty—to protect the country’s interests.
Last week, while speaking during a familiarisation tour at Limbe Auction Floors, Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Allan Chiyembekeza said the World Health Organisation (WHO) FCTC anti-smoking lobby is growing worldwide and is seriously affecting tobacco consumption.
And in an interview on Monday, Tama chief executive officer Graham Kunimba backed the move, arguing it will give Malawi an opportunity to have a stronger position.
Kunimba noted that there are different schools of thought, but as farmers all along they believed that signing the treaty would give Malawi an opportunity to contribute to statutes and advance the country’s interests as a tobacco producer.
Earlier, other stakeholders argued that signing the convention would mean shooting ourselves in the foot because Malawi relies on tobacco.
However, Chiyembekeza said government is seriously considering ratifying the convention so that Malawi’s voice can be heard, especially considering that tobacco is a crop of strategic importance.
The treaty, which is now closed for signature, has 168 signatories, including the European Community, which makes it one of the most widely embraced treaties.
The WHO FCTC provides for demand reduction which includes price and tax measures, regulation of tobacco products contents, packaging and labelling of tobacco products.
According to WHO, countries that did not sign the convention by June 29 2004 but wish to become a party, may do so by means of accession, which is a one-step process equivalent to ratification.
According to the minister, tobacco, from growing to marketing, employs 12 percent of Malawi’s labour force, contributes 15 percent of Malawi’s GDP and brings in over 60 percent of forex earnings.
Speaking during the same tour on Friday, Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) chief executive officer Bruce Munthali said up to the 16th week, the market has sold 127 million kilogrammes valued at $227 million.
Munthali, however, pointed out that this year’s earnings are three percent lower than same period last year due to poor tobacco prices globally.
Munthali added that TCC has targets including review of registration of tobacco growers, finalization of the Tobacco Act, and crop size management.