Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

***The views expressed in the articles published on this website DO NOT necessarily express the views of the Commercial Farmers' Union.***

ACP fight WHO tobacco controls

ACP fight WHO tobacco controls

by Clara Smith     Tuesday 16 November 2010

HARARE — Zimbabwe’s fight against proposed World Health Organisation (WHO)
controls on tobacco — a key cash crop that sustains about a million
people — has received a boost from 78 other countries.

A meeting to finalise the ban started in Uruguay on Monday and will run
until Friday.

WHO, through a treaty known as the Framework on the Convention for Tobacco
Control (FCTC) is seeking to use the meeting to finalise a ban on
ingredients used to flavor certain varieties of tobacco such as burley grown
in countries such as Zimbabwe.

Proponents of the treaty say this would make the tobacco less attractive to

But Zimbabwe, one of the leading tobacco producers and dependent on the crop
for economic recovery, would be hit hard because its varieties need blending
to maintain appeal.

African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, 79 of them including
Zimbabwe, have taken a position to oppose elements of the FCTC that would
impose a ban on blending ingredients to protect their economies.

A statement by ACP countries stated that the bloc would oppose the proposed
ban “on the grounds that, among other things, these guidelines are
incomplete and therefore to finalise them at this stage will be premature;
and pointing out the inadequacy of the policy options on alternative
livelihoods to tobacco growing since they are based on assumptions which are
flawed, as well, on the basis that these mechanisms do not provide support
for diversification from tobacco.”

The ACP’s decision will add weight to Zimbabwe and other tobacco producing
countries’ fight because 74 of the bloc’s members are signatories to the
FCTC and will therefore be represented in Uruguay.

The FCTC has 171 member countries.

In Zimbabwe, tobacco sustains the livelihoods of vast numbers of rural,
small scale and commercial farmers who grow the crop that despite upheavals
in the farming sector caused by President Robert Mugabe’s land reforms has
remained a key foreign currency earner for the country.

As if to underscore the importance of tobacco to the economy, Finance
Minister Tendai Biti in September revised 2010 growth projects to 8.1
percent from an earlier estimate of 4.5 percent on the back of a rebounding
the crop known by the Zimbabwe’s farmers as the golden leaf.

Tobacco contributed 26 percent of GDP last year while one million people are
directly dependent on tobacco, according to government and unions. Zimbabwe’s
crop jumped from 56 million kgs in 2009 to 123 million kgs this year, the
first time since 2002 for the crop to break the 100 million-kilogramme mark.

But WHO says countries such as Zimbabwe should promote alternative crops and
diversify from tobacco.

“If you look at the whole economy, tobacco has shown the quickest recovery
rate of more than 100 percent. The problem is that proponents of this treaty
are sitting in ivory towers somewhere out there,” said Kevin Cooke, the
Zimbabwe Tobacco Association president.

Studies supported by the international tobacco industry and released at the
weekend state that: “Tobacco exports, along with mining and tourism, will be
the key drivers of economic recovery in Zimbabwe from 2010 onwards.
Historically, there has been a strong correlation between the country’s
tobacco production and changes in GDP, which is expected to continue over
the long-term.

The direct dependency on tobacco would range from 5% to 10% of the
population, with burley production accounting for up to 10% of total tobacco
produce. Any external shocks to the tobacco industry would further hamper
the country’s economic recovery as well as the health of the rural economy.”

Another research by the International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA),
which says is out to protect its 30 million members from the harmful effects
of the FCTC says: “The role of burley tobacco in African economies and the
expected impact of a decline in the crop’s production shows that more than
3.6 million people in Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe are
directly dependent on tobacco production for their livelihoods.

“A further 12 million people are directly and indirectly affected by
developments in the countries’ tobacco sectors.”

“Why should they talk about banning tobacco on health grounds without
talking about banning Whisky, which is produced by the Scottish? Why target
poor countries?” asked agriculture minister Joseph Made. — ZimOnline


New Posts: