By Kuda Chideme, HARARE, January 21 (The Source) – Tobacco industry officials have warned that adopting harsh anti-tobacco policies will cripple Zimbabwe’s economy and destroy the livelihoods of more than 70,000 farmers who depend on the crop.
The southern-African nation grossed $855 million from exports of the golden leaf last year, compared to foreign direct investment inflows of $555 million in 2014 and seen at $600 million in 2015 to underline the importance of the crop to its economy. However there has been growing pressure from anti-smoking lobby groups for laws against tobacco.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has since developed a Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which contains rules on tobacco-related business covering production, sales, advertising and taxation.
The treaty has been ratified by 180 countries, covering 90 percent of the world’s population, with Zimbabwe being the latest country to adopt the framework.
Speaking at a meeting to discuss implications of the treaty, Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) general manager Andrew Matibiri said Zimbabwe should benefit from tobacco as a legal commodity at the same time protecting public health.
“Any restrictions and bans on tobacco have serious implications on the livelihoods of our farmers and will definitely and significantly impact the economy,” he said.
International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA) Francois Van de Merwe who was present at the meeting called for “reasonable regulation based on science and consultation.”
Van de Merwe said the current campaign was bent on destroying the tobacco industry and not about public health.
Zimbabwe commands an important position in the global tobacco market accounting for about 20 percent of the world’s flue cured tobacco output.
In recent years it has contributed close to 30 percent of the country’s foreign earnings.