President Peter Mutharika has reiterated that tobacco will remain Malawi’s main foreign exchange earner despite the ongoing global anti- smoking lobby.
Mutharika made the remarks when he officially opened the JTI warehouse and factory upgrade on Thursday at Kanengo Industrial Site in Lilongwe.
“Tobacco is a crop of national strategic importance for the role it plays in the national economy. I am aware that the tobacco industry continues to face a lot of challenges and key among them is the issue of the anti-smoking lobby spearheaded by the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control [WHO FCTC] to safeguard human health,” he said.
Mutharika said the anti-smoking lobby has had and will continue to have negative effects on demand for tobacco world-wide and may, therefore, seriously affect Malawi’s foreign exchange earnings and the livelihoods of tobacco farmers.
He said the WHO FCTC is a serious threat to tobacco production since it restricts demand and supply of tobacco products through various strategies, which include restrictions on marketing and consumption of tobacco products.
Mutharika said the matter is of big concern to the country, as such, he is looking at other means of beefing up Malawi’s economy.
“My government is concerned with this development, but Malawi cannot stop overnight growing tobacco. We will continue growing tobacco based on trade requirements until when there is no demand. During this transitional period, farmers will gradually be switching from tobacco to other economicallyviable enterprises,” he explained.
JTI Malawi managing director Fries Vanneste asked government to look at a number of policies and regulations that directly affect the tobacco industry
“We would like government to address such issues to create an operating environment that fosters the interests of all key stakeholders. “We, for example, want further approved reforms such as the farmer registration system, which will improve the quality of tobacco as well as crop size management,” he said.