Malawi too would like to continue benefiting from tobacco as a legal commodity while at the same time protecting public health, Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Kondwani Nankhumwa has said.
Nankhumwa arrives to open international tobacco conference Nankhumwa and workshop delegates in group photo Nankhumwa: No-one forces people to smoke, as no-one forces farmers to grow tobacco Nankhumwa with delegates to the workshop: We need a plan of action
He was officially opening the Tobacco Coalition (T5) Workshop at Ufulu Gardens Hotel in the capital city, Lilongwe on Thursday, September 26, 2019.
'T5' is a grouping of tobacco industry stakeholders from Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Delegates from these countries are attending the workshop in Malawi to discuss some of the challenges facing the leaf tobacco sector and to collectively find a way "to address them in the most satisfactory way", according to the minister, who noted that "sharing information is important to take the right decisions".
Nankhumwa said the government acknowledges the complexity of tobacco and wants to have a broad consultative approach to deal with it.
"Government would continue informing and civic educating the consumer on the dangers of tobacco and its products thereby giving them the freedom of informed choice. However, we will also be promoting tobacco production and protecting it from the negative effects of unbalanced and poorly informed tobacco control legislation adopted by countries which import our tobacco. We are therefore here to discuss some of the challenges facing the leaf tobacco sector and to collectively find a way to address them in the most satisfactory way. Sharing information is important to take the right decisions.
"This cooperation among our governments gives us all the chance to exchange our opinions on how to address several challenges of the tobacco sector, and also to be heard more than if we spoke alone: we have seen many good results of our efforts. Finding time to discuss among each other and to be fully informed of the challenges ahead of us is not easy but we can make it, and we have made it," said the agriculture minister.
Specifically tackling the international anti-smoking lobby, Nankhumwa said no-one forces people to smoke, as no-one forces farmers to grow tobacco.
"Everyone can make the choices which are the most appropriate for themselves.
He also told delegates that the Malawi Government would continue promoting tobacco production and protecting it from the negative effects of unbalanced and poorly informed tobacco control legislation adopted by countries which import our tobacco.
He said Malawians were proud to host the workshop, which, takes great significance and symbolism as it is taking place at exactly half-way between two important events where decisions taken will affect tobacco producing countries and influence the way they are seen globally.
The minister said the conference will also consolidate the resolutions and plans, which were made during the previous conferences held here in Malawi, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and elsewhere, which discussed on how to work better together as governments in order to support the tobacco crop and ensure that it is recognized and respected as a crop, which has played an important role in the development of people in many countries globally.
He said Malawi is one of the biggest producers of burley tobacco in the world and the economy of this country depends on this crop.
"The situation will continue to be like this for the foreseeable future. Tobacco is therefore the crop that the country cherishes, and which my Ministry cannot afford to ignore," said the minister.
Nankhumwa said he hoped that as a region or a group of tobacco producing countries, we will be meeting regularly to harmonize their positions and adopt a common stance through a declaration of support for responsible use of tobacco.