Zim seeks voice at global tobacco forum

Elita Chikwati Agriculture Reporter

Stakeholders in the tobacco industry have raised concern over the exclusion of countries producing the crop at the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Conference of the Parties (CoP) meeting to be held next week in India.The FCTC is a legally binding international treaty, which came into force on February 27, 2005 and calls for the reduction of tobacco use.

Among its obligations, the treaty commits countries to ban or restrict tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, and to place large graphic health warnings on cigarette packs.

The treaty also commits members to implement measures to protect non-smokers from second-hand smoke, increase the price of tobacco products to discourage its use, eliminate the illicit trade of tobacco products as well as regulate the content of tobacco products and require public disclosure of ingredients.

It also proposes that governments assist tobacco producers, assuming that they will be under long-term impacts with the reduction in demand for tobacco.

Zimbabwe signed the treaty in 2014 and was expected to participate in all discussions and hoped its considerations would be heard.

In a statement, the International Tobacco Growers Association said growers were concerned with the WHO FCTC.

ITGA said growers were seeking proper consultation and active participation in the development of policies directly affecting them, specifically at the upcoming WHO FCTC CoP meet- ing.

“Growers also want recognition of the significant economic contribution tobacco growing brings to their national economies; and solid impact assessments to be carried out when the Convention proposes measures.

“Tobacco is not only an important, but in most cases, the main cash crop for many agriculture-based economies, and it helps to enhance the livelihoods of millions of farmers, rural workers and their families across the globe,” said the ITGA.

The association said growers were calling on their governments to assure a sustainable future for them and their families in the face of the many uncertainties facing the tobacco market to ensure the subsistence of tobacco-growing communities.

“Growers and their associations recognise the need to try to curb tobacco consumption but, for more than a decade since its inception, despite repeated requests to participate in the biennial FCTC CoP meetings, they have not been afforded one single opportunity to present the realities of their sector.

The Convention continues to grossly underestimate the consequences of the measures it proposes, refusing to acknowledge that most will irreparably damage livelihoods of millions of tobacco-growers and their families — often in the world’s poorest countries — while still failing to curb consumption,” read the statement.

To counter-balance this lack of inclusion, a delegation of growers from important tobacco growing countries including Zimbabwe and the ITGA representatives will travel to India to follow closely the CoP process.

In Zimbabwe, nearly 100 000 farmers engage in tobacco production while close to one million people are directly dependent on the “golden leaf”.

Tobacco generates 30 percent of the country’s foreign currency, bringing in over $600 million.

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