Tobacco Commission (TC) chief executive officer, Dr. Joseph Chidanti Malunga, has dispelled fears that the tobacco industry could face natural death as the West pushes for the anti-smoking lobby and other campaigns.
Malunga made the sentiments Saturday in the capital Lilongwe during an interface meeting with members of the Media Network on Tobacco (MNT), which is a grouping of like-minded journalists with a passion to disseminate correct information about the tobacco value chain in Malawi.
Malawi is largely dependent on agriculture with tobacco as the main cash crop and foreign exchange earner.
However, the growing global anti-smoking campaign, which has resulted in local calls for crop diversification in order to replace tobacco, has brought about uncertainty over the future of the crop in the country.
But Malunga emphasized that the industry remains vibrant and the most reliable contributor the country's gross domestic product (GDP).
He said there are some individuals who are churning 'organized misinformation aimed at frustrating the ever growing tobacco industry in the country'.
Malunga assured growers and the citizenry that they should expect 'even much improved production and prices of the crop in the future seasons'.
"The truth of the matter is that no any other crop in Malawi can replace tobacco at the moment, even in the very distant future," he challenged, adding that those advocating for the replacement of tobacco have an evil agenda and merely want to mislead people.
"Of course, we agree that rules in the tobacco industry have now changed. We now have to do more of what our customers need such as making sure that our tobacco is not produced through child labour. It has to be clean tobacco. But whatever happens to tobacco should not be the justification to diversify to replace the crop," said Malunga.
Malunga added that since many growers have been affected and that there is uncertainty, TC has started implementing various initiatives in order to maintain tobacco as the 'darling crop' for most Malawians.
"For instance, we have already started registration for the next season. We are telling farmers that tobacco production and prices will be even much better this coming season. Of course, there was a problem of volume in the exiting season. We will sort out this in the next season. Growers should look forward to the best," he said.
MNT president, Alfred Chauwa, urged TC to work with the grouping in order to put across correct messages that would inspire farmers to grow even more and high quality leaf.
Chauwa, who is also Nyasa Times reporter, further urged his fellow journalists to exercise caution when reporting about tobacco in the country, saying any uncensored reporting can affect the economic benefits of the crop.