Tobacco growers want say in decision-making processes

via Tobacco growers want say in decision-making processes 2 July 2014 by Tarisai Mandizha

THE International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA) says the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) should not exclude tobacco growers in key decisions-making processes as the body fights the proposed ban on the growing of the golden leaf.

The FCTC recommends among other things that governments phase out tobacco farming by limiting the land where it can be grown. It also recommends endorsing dismantling of all bodies relating governments with growers – such as the tobacco boards, thus putting farmers’ livelihoods at risk while failing to offer an economically viable alternative crop.

Speaking at the meeting of the ITGA Africa region in Harare yesterday, ITGA president Francois Van Der Merwe said crucial meetings that have made decisions
affecting the industry such as the upcoming conference scheduled for this year were confined to government representatives who are often from the health sectors and not tobacco players.

The conference of the parties to the WHO FCTC is set to host a meeting in Moscow Russia. The conference of parties is made up of 178 members. Zimbabwe and Malawi are not members despite being some of the largest tobacco growers on the continent.

“The message to WHO, if you want to regulate the sector you better start talking to the sector because we will not allow and stand back to have you make decisions from Geneva, Switzerland and other places, making decisions which will impact on the farmers in rural areas who provide a livelihood for the growers.

“It is a pity that we are discussing here what’s going to happen at the conference with the parties later this year and we have to speculate. We do not know what’s going on yet the guidelines that they are going to propose are about growers because they want to regulate growers out of tobacco and we say no, that’s not going to happen,” Van Der Merwe said.

He said the growing community forms part of the bigger value chain of tobacco which consists of a whole value chain of tobacco production, processing, manufacturing, retail and eventually the consumers.

“What we normally find is that the delegates who go to the meetings are mostly health officials and that’s wrong. We are advocating a balanced delegation so that there are people of agriculture, trade, finance and law enforcement on the delegation so that they can make balanced and informed decisions about tobacco,” he said.
Tobacco is one of the biggest foreign currency earners in Zimbabwe apart from mining.
This year’s season tobacco plantings increased to 110 000 hectares from 85 000 hectares in 2013 with production is expected to reach 210 million kg up from the 167 million kg registered in 2013.
In 2013 tobacco production increased to 167 million kg from 144,5 million kg earning
$612 million in grower earnings and $1,0 billion in export earnings.
The crop accounted for 11% of the Gross Domestic Product in 2013 constituting 61% of all agriculture exports and 21% of total exports.