Malawi prepares for WHO tobacco indaba

Post was last updated: February 4, 2016

Stakeholders in the local tobacco industry met in Lilongwe on Tuesday to prepare Malawi’s defence of the tobacco industry at a World Health Organisation (WHO) conference on tobacco slated for India later this year.

The Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) says outcomes of the meeting will serve as input to Malawi’s position at the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) 7th Conference of Parties.

TCC Chief Executive Officer, Albert Changaya, told the conference that tobacco continues to face major challenges on the international market, including its exclusion from international trade agreements, plain packaging, heavy taxes and restrictions on production due to health concerns raised by developed countries.

“This is reducing the global demand for tobacco and thereby negatively affecting the economies of developing countries such as Malawi which has no capacity to divesting away from tobacco in the short term,” said Changaya.

He said with the current 60 percent contribution of export earnings to the economy, tobacco cannot easily be replaced by any commodity.

Opening the conference, Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Allan Chiyembekeza said even if tobacco products are deemed a risk for health, tobacco production sustains the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people and farmers.

He said farmers have, with support from merchants and financial institutions, invested considerable amounts of resources to produce the crop in full respect for environmental and social rights.

“The government acknowledges the complexity of tobacco and wants to have a broad consultative approach to deal with it. Like so many other countries, we too would like to continue benefiting from tobacco as a legal commodity while at the same time protecting public health,” said Chiyembekeza.

He acknowledged the threat of exclusion of tobacco from international trade agreements.

Countries with economies that are heavily dependent on tobacco met in Cape Town in May 2015 to discuss the establishment of a coordinated regional mechanism and body for the enhanced sustainability of tobacco in the SADC and Comesa region.

Representatives from international cigarrette producing companies including Phillip Morris International, British American Tobacco and Universal Leaf attended the conference.

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