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Malawi Tobacco Association Assailed WHO-FCTC

Tama refering to Tobacco Association of Malawi and Malawi’s largest tobacco growers’ body, has taken a swipe at the World Health Organisation (WHO) for intensifying its campaign towards abolishing tobacco farming.
Such a move by WHO could spell doom for Malawi, whose economy relies heavily on tobacco for its foreign exchange revenue, gross domestic product (GDP) growth and employment of millions of Malawians directly and indirectly.
Tama chief executive officer Graham Kunimba told Business News on Saturday that the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC) has to come up with scientific-proven evidence on its fight against tobacco farming and offer an alternative viable crop.
“Tobacco is a legal crop and, therefore, we will continue producing this crop to satisfy the demand that is there for the product,” he said.
Kunimba’s statement comes at a time anti-tobacco lobbyists led by WHO continue to pile pressure on the global tobacco industry, sending shivers to countries such as Malawi whose lifeline hugely depend on tobacco, which brings in about 60 percent of the country’s foreign exchange earnings.
FCTC is the brainchild of the WHO to specifically handle anti-tobacco issues and its treaty carries a whole range of articles which target an eventual end to the world of smoking.
“WHO must come to us with scientifically-proven evidence to say stop tobacco production and this is a viable alternative crop, which you can enter into and continue enjoying your life. Without that, we will continue growing tobacco.
“As of now, Malawi is not a signatory to the [Framework Convention on Tobacco Control] treaty, which means that we are not in any way bound with whatever recommendations they are coming up with,”added Kunimba.
Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) chief executive officer Bruce Munthali said they are monitoring the situation, and plans are underway for the country to be party to the FCTC to ensure that they raise their issues from within.
He said the move by WHO-FCTC is detrimental to the country’s tobacco industry which, he said, is the backbone of the country’s economy.
Pandora Box
I think that we Malawians are burying our heads in the sand and living in this tobacco comfort zone, which is not sustainable. The ant-smoking lobby is real and will soon catch up with us. It has been there the last 15 to 20 years and we have chosen to pay lip service to the diversification of our economy. By now, we should have found alternative drivers of our economy. Why are we clinging to this sinking ship? It’s only a matter of time, the writing has been on the wall long enough. The tobacco prices tell it all. Let’s accept the reality and abandon the sinking ship now, not tomorrow. TAMA’s arrogance will not take us anywhere, the times have changed.
I totally agree with Pandora box comments. We are fighting a losing battle here. Multilateral organizations and developed countries are not going to change their course just because Malawi relies on tobacco. We have to move on. Tourism is our next best thing with really no serious seasonality. Let us extensively dvelop that. We should find potential investors to partner with in developing the sector. We need a very good framework of developing the sector and be clear of what we want to achieve. There is no reason why Malawi should net 27 million Dollars from tourism when Botswana with its desert should get 500 million US Dollars. We should be able to get as much or even more considering how beautiful our country is.