African tobacco growers demand to be heard

AFRICAN tobacco growers have called upon their governments to protect their livelihoods and request access to discussions at the next Conference of the Parties (CoP7) of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, in Delhi, India in November 2016.

Tobacco growers demanded to be heard on matters that affect their livelihoods and urged governments of tobacco growing countries to exercise their sovereign duty to protect the millions of Africans deriving a living from the legal tobacco crop.

Growers emphasized that they produced a crop for a legal market, which provides a livelihood to millions of farmers, rural workers and their families in Africa and around the world, but noted with concern the decline in demand for their crop as a direct result of extreme regulatory measures such as sharp tax increases.

Growers also highlighted the important contribution of tobacco to their countries’ economies and the reliance on tobacco of more than 24 million people in Southern and Eastern Africa.

Growers noted with deep concern that international convention negotiations were being conducted by public health officials and anti-tobacco organisations, which have little or no real knowledge of tobacco growing, the tobacco sector, and their economic importance in growing countries.

This was heard during the International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA) meeting that was hosted in Lusaka recently.

In Zambia, tobacco provides full and seasonal employment to some 450,000 people, in Malawi tobacco accounts for almost 60 percent of its exports and in Tanzania tobacco is the number one export crop. Tobacco in Mozambique has the highest monetary value per hectare compared to other domestic crops and in Zimbabwe tobacco creates over two million jobs directly and indirectly.

However International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA) growers accept the need to regulate the consumption of tobacco products, but insist that regulatory measures should be balanced and evidence-based, so as to prevent such measures having a devastating impact on the livelihoods of millions of tobacco farmers without achieving any of the desired aims of tobacco control.

The association advocates for the inclusion of tobacco growers in global discussions, trying to provide them with a strong collective voice in the international arena to ensure protection for them and their families.

And delegates from tobacco growing countries in Africa reiterated the support given to the positions and decisions of the 14th COMESA summit; the resolution of 11 African tobacco growing countries held in Lusaka in October 2010; the 14th Ministerial Commission of Trade held in Brussels from October 18 to 22, 2010; and the summit of the African Union held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, between January 24 and 28, 2011.

Growers noted with approval efforts to improve the sustainability of tobacco, as well as programmes to tackle challenges such child labour, deforestation, food security and sustainability.

Growers further noted that measures impacting agriculture, employment, the economy and sustainable development could not be decided upon by a group of health experts and bureaucrats alone.

“Therefore, tobacco growers request the participation at CoP 7 of the ministries of Agriculture, Trade, Industry and Commerce, as well as relevant experts from tobacco sector member organizations.

The International Tobacco Growers’ Association (ITGA) is a non-profit entity that promotes the cause of millions of tobacco growers around the world.