By Anthony Tambwe
Tobacco farmers in the country have come out into the open and demanded an audience with authorities who they claim are threatening their existence.
Speaking to reporters in Dar es Salaam yesterday, the International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA) President, Mr Daniel Green, said the farming segment of Tanzania’s tobacco industry employed 1.45 million people, whose livelihood would be jeopardised if their activities come to a halt.
He said that for many decades, tobacco had been one of the main income generators as well as one of the main promoters of employment in tobacco producing countries.
The ITGA President was speaking during a meeting organised by the association, which brought together sector and political representatives, as well as tobacco farmers from other African countries that produce the crop – Malawi, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
He said that in countries with high dependency on tobacco as it is the case of most African tobacco growing countries, a proper plan needs to be put on the table and by all stakeholders.
“Without this commitment, very little can be done to achieve benefits that seek to promote a sustainable future for tobacco growers and the regions as a whole,” he said.
During the meeting, growers also stressed the need for the participation of tobacco growers’ representatives in the process being carried out by the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). FCTC is holding a regional meeting in Dar es Salaam which coincides with the ITGA meeting, to discuss measures related to Article 17 and 18.
These are directly linked to tobacco growers and production as it discusses issues concerning alternatives to tobacco growing.
“We have come to a point where it is clear that the FCTC Secretariat has experienced a veto to tobacco growers by ignoring their pleas,” said the ITGA Chief Executive Officer, Antonio Abrunhosa.
Tobacco is the top agricultural export in Tanzania in value and employs 1.45 million people in the tobacco supply chain, while in Malawi tobacco represents 14 per cent of the country’s GDP and employs 5 million people in the tobacco supply chain.