Kenyan tobacco farmers together with African peers drawn from Zimbabwe, Malawi Zambia, and South Africa have resolved to negotiate with governments to be involved in policy formulation to safeguard their interests.
Representatives of tobacco growers, meeting last week under the International Tobacco Growers’ Association (ITGA) in Harare, Zimbabwe,said government policies usually have a major impact on their livelihoods and should thus have their inputs.
ITGA President Francois van der Merwe said tobacco growers are alarmed that recommendations on tobacco proposed for the next Conference of the Parties (COP6) of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) would penalise growers for whom tobacco crops are a route out of poverty and a way of life.
“The people driving these policies are completely out of touch with reality and fail to recognise the positive economic contribution that tobacco growing makes to Africa,” he said.
“This is ahigh-value cash crop very much suited to small-hold farming, and has
changed the lives of many African farmers for the better.”
A proposed product amendment by the European Union on ingredients used in tobacco is threatening burley tobacco farmers globally. The effect of ingredients banned means that traditionally US-blended cigarettes can’t be manufactured anymore. Some of the ingredients have technological purposes like controlling the burn rate, acting as binders and fillers and preventing the tobacco from degrading.
President of the Zimbabwe Tobacco Association Gavin Foster pointed out that most of the tobacco produced in Africa is exported.
“Growers are naturally concerned about efforts in the context of the FCTC to change the way tobacco is treated in the international trading system,” he said.
“If allowed, such changes would prevent tobacco-producing countries from
legitimately defending and benefiting from those exports.”
Tobacco growers, said Van der Merwe, have been excluded from presenting their views and have been denied any chance to engage with those pushing for these punitive measures.
“We are asking governments – and representative bodies such as the United Nations – to engage with us in a constructive dialogue instead of shutting the door on our lives.”