Tobacco Asia

Volume 19, Number 4

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56 tobaccoasia LEAF NEWS 烟叶新闻 WHO SAID WHAT? Malawi Industry Takes Heavy Toll In 2015, bales of tobacco in Malawi sell for about US$200 each. This represents about three months' labor for a small- holder farmer. The 160 of air- and heat-cured tobacco expected to sell in the next month outside the capital Lilongwe, will earn the country about $350 m. According to the World Bank, Malawi is now the poorest country in the world and tobacco is central to its economy. International sales have been stable so far, but the government recently hit out at anti-smoking campaigners, saying tobacco played a vital role in the development of African countries like Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, and warning that the western anti-smoking lobby risked plunging some of the poorest people in the world into further economic peril. However, as people in rich countries cut back on smoking, and developing countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, and Brazil place higher taxes on cigarette sales, Malawi faces declining demand for its "green gold". According to Graham Kunimba, head of the Tobacco Association of Malawi (TAMA), tobacco is considered a strategic crop for some African countries. In Malawi, the industry is the second largest employer, with more than 350,000 farmers and their families, 70,000 hired laborers, and 10,000 people in leaf-processing factories dependent on it, he said. "Why is the target on tobacco products and not on other products which may have a negative impact on health, including sugar? This is not done in good faith but to punish poor countries like Malawi who rely on tobacco for its economic growth," he added. "In the end, the people who suffer most from this situation are the tobacco farmers, who support a very large part of Malawi's agricultural production." "The manufacturers of tobacco products will no longer have an interest in supplying a product which has a brand value. This will inevitably lead to the use of cheaper tobacco and drive down the price of leaf tobacco," he said. Malawi devotes more than 5% of its farming land to the crop. According to Philip Morris, one of the largest buyers of Malawian tobacco, it takes 10kg of wood to dry 1kg of tobacco. In a statement, the company, based in Switzerland, said: "The average amount of wood needed to dry tobacco is currently 10kg of wood/kg of dry tobacco. PMI and [local NGO] Total Land Care have created cooperatives to plant more than 90m trees and bamboo on farms and communal lands, helping to reduce Malawi's deforestation. "Together with our suppliers we are actively promoting the introduction of rocket barns that reduce fuel-wood consumption by 40%, to below 6kg of wood/kg of dry tobacco. We aim to convert standard curing barns to improved/rocket barns in both Malawi and Mozambique by 2017, which will result in saving the equivalent of 25 million trees by 2018," the company said. Zimbabwe Farmers Fear Winter Thousands of small-scale Zimbabwe farmers are afraid they will be going hungry this winter. The worst regional drought in nearly a decade has left Zimbabwe in a precarious food situation. Many farmers have complained of low prices as the season ends while buyers argue the quality of the crop was poor. "A number of farmers are crying foul over unsatisfactory (tobacco) prices," said Trevor Saruwaka, member of parliament for Mutasa Central in Manicaland. "Those who make losses are condemned to poverty and starvation." The tobacco industry is Zimbabwe's biggest export earner with over 88,000 growers registered with the tobacco regulatory body, the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board, in the 2014-2015 season, up from 52,000 in 2012. But many farmers have been left disappointed. Industry figures showed that at the end of the selling season this month farmers sold 188.5 million kgs worth US$555 million, down 8.5% from a year ago when the crop was worth US$654 million. According to the government, with more farmers focused on tobacco, Zimbabwe's harvest of maize dropped by 49% this season, which is set to "The impact of illegal tobacco may not be felt as immediately and directly as other crimes, but the consequences are very real. By some estimates, illegal tobacco costs govern- ments around the world US$40-$50 billion each year in unpaid tobacco taxes – and sale of illegal tobacco may fund human traffick- ing, drug and arms trades, prostitution, as well as terrorist organisations. The amount of illegal tobacco is much more significant than is generally realised." - Dinesh Dharmadasa, Director, Corporate and Regulatory Affairs at British American Tobacco

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