Foundation for Smoke Free World (FSFW), an international non-governmental organization has urged stakeholders and farmers in the Malawi that there is a need to shift from tobacco go for other crops that could be the country’s main foreign exchange earner as the gold leaf is under pressure from anti-smoking lobbyists.
Vice President for FSFW responsible for Agriculture and Livelihoods, Jim Lutzweiler, made the remarks on Wednesday on the sidelines of a consultative meeting on the alternative crop to tobacco which was held at Sunbird Capital Hotel in Lilongwe on Wednesday in Lilongwe.
He said tobacco is becoming less acceptable on the world market which means that alternatives ought to be identified before it is too late for economies that are 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.
Lutzweilet said Malawi farmers can 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.”
Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development director of extension services Albert Changaya said the issue of an alternative crop to tobacco is not new as such there is need for advocates to look at what previous advocates did and learn from their successes and failures.
Parliamentary Agriculture Committee deputy chairperson James Munthali said diversifying from tobacco has to be done in a realistic way.
He said Parliament enacted the Warehouse Receipt Law which can help in identifying more valuable crops to be sold through structured markets such as AHL Commodities Exchange (AHCX) and Agriculture Commodities Exchange (ACE) for Africa.
Said Munthali: “In my understanding, we are not going to replace tobacco overnight, but we need to gradually replace it.
“The volumes we used to sell in the past have dropped which is a wake-up call,” he said
Speaking at the meeting on behalf of Tobacco Control Commission (TCC), Patricia Kasamale said her organization would keep on watching the efforts being taken.
“We support all initiatives being undertaken taken by FSFW, to find crops that will complement tobacco,” Kasamale briefly said.
Hugh Saunders, managing director of Alliance One, one of the tobacco buying and processing companies, cautioned on the conflicting information sent to farmers about switching from tobacco to other crops, admitting that no crop has yet been identified to replace tobacco.
He said while there is a need to shift from tobacco, it is “dangerous” to pass messages to farmers a to move away from tobacco production when there is no solution.
“The solution is to have an alternative crop. Tobacco is a high value crop and there are factors that need to be taken into consideration when pondering on this issue, ” he told the meeting.
In Malawi, figures show that tobacco contributes about 50 percent of foreign exchange.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :