Time to move on

| March 5, 2018

The Foundation for a Smoke Free World (FSFW) has told tobacco growers in Malawi that there is a need to shift to other crops that could take over as the country’s main foreign exchange earners, according to a story in The Nyasa Times.

The vice president of the FSFW responsible for agriculture and livelihoods, Jim Lutzweiler, was said to have made this remark while speaking on Wednesday on the side-lines of a consultative meeting on alternative crops that was held in Lilongwe.

Lutzweiler said tobacco was becoming less acceptable on the world market, which meant that alternatives ought to be identified before it was too late for economies that were dependent on tobacco.

“In the event that tobacco has completely phased out as a reliable cash crop in Malawi, we would like to mobilize interest of people and many other stakeholders to think of an alternative cash crop with a formal market, to help farmers be able to move on economically,” he said.

Malawi’s farmers, he added, could replace tobacco with soya beans, “provided everyone understands the importance of this idea well ahead of time as tobacco has globally been proved a health risk for people.”

Tobacco is thought to contribute about 50 percent of the country’s foreign exchange earnings.

The FSFW, which was set up last year with initial funding of $1 billion over 12 years from Philip Morris International, is legally independent of PMI. Two of its main aims are to provide funding for research into accelerating the ending of tobacco smoking, and to prepare for the consequences of any success in reducing smoking that will be felt by smallholder tobacco farmers.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development’s director of extension services, Albert Changaya, said the issue of an alternative crop to tobacco was not new; so it would be necessary to look at what previous advocates had done and to learn from their successes and failures.

And the Parliamentary Agriculture Committee’s deputy chairperson, James Munthali, said diversifying from tobacco had to be done in a realistic way.

He said parliament had enacted the Warehouse Receipt Law which could help in identifying more valuable crops to be sold through structured markets such as the AHL Commodities Exchange and Agriculture Commodities for Africa.

“In my understanding, we are not going to replace tobacco overnight, but we need to gradually replace it,” he said.

“The volumes we used to sell in the past have dropped, which is a wake-up call.”

Speaking at the meeting on behalf of the Tobacco Control Commission, Patricia Kasamale said her organization would keep on watching the efforts being taken. “We support all initiatives being undertaken by FSFW to find crops that will complement tobacco,” Kasamale said.

There was a word of warning, however, from Hugh Saunders, MD of Alliance One, about the conflicting information being sent to farmers about switching from tobacco to other crops, given that no crop had yet been identified as a replacement for tobacco.

“The solution is to have an alternative crop,” he said. “Tobacco is a high value crop and there are factors that need to be taken into consideration when pondering on this issue.”


Category: Breaking News, Leaf, Markets, People

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