By: Happy Arnold Soko
The Malawi leader Peter Mutharika says he will fight moves by the World Health Organization (WHO) and some African nations to discourage smoking, saying the campaign has serious economic implications to the country.
The remarks were made on Wednesday in Lilongwe Auction Floors during the official opening of the 2016 Tobacco season.
The Malawi leader assured farmers not to panic as his government will find other means of exporting the tobacco.
He indicated that the anti-smoking campaign have huge economic consequences since tobacco is the country’s major foreign exchange earner.
“Tobacco is our biggest exchange earner and I am aware of the anti-smoking campaign. My government will look into the matter and engage interested companies to continue buying our tobacco,” said Mutharika.
Recently, the president of the International Tobacco Growers Association, Francois van der Merwe, told Voice of America (VOA) that the anti-tobacco campaign would result in the economies of some countries crashing as they depend heavily on the leaf.
“The anti-tobacco lobby is very vocal, very extreme and very out of touch lobby,” said van der Merwe. “They have one thing in mind and that is to damage the tobacco industry. The best thing for them is to start working with the tobacco industry so that they can understand how it functions. By extreme measures we will damage the industry which makes huge contributions all around the world.”
In Malawi, tobacco is overwhelmingly the main cash crop. This year, the country expects to export more about 190 million kilograms worth of tobacco.
The World Food Program says that farmers’ reliance on tobacco has for the past years contributed to the country’s food shortages.
Most Malawian farmers shun staple crops such as maize in favor of tobacco, which they call “golden leaf” despite the hazards of smoking and the calls for anti-smoking campaigns by the WHO.
About 36 percent of tobacco was returned from 60 percent last year which is a clear indication of improvement.
During the opening day, the green gold was selling at a minimum price of 80 cents and a maximum price of $1.84 per kg.
A total of 24 million Africans across 15 countries depend on the tobacco industry for their livelihood.