Government has said that it is sending a high powered delegation to the fifth session of conference of parties to World Health Organization’s Frame Work Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) that will take place in South Korea from November 13 this year.

The delegation is expected to carry Malawi’s concerns about FCTC in spite of the country’s failure to ratify FCTC framework, a development that makes it impossible for Malawi’s views to be heard from in side of the convention.

Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Peter Mwanza, has said that there are many ways of having ones views heard even before ratifying the FCTC framework.

“We have friends such as International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA), other countries which have already ratified FCTC and other non governmental organizations we can ask to bear our views at the meeting on top of our delegation presenting our opinion through other avenues such as the media while right there in Korea,” said Mwanza.

He said this last Monday when farmers through Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama), presented a petition to government, urging it to do something about the pressures that are calling for restrictions in tobacco production which, if implemented are believed that they can suffocate tobacco production world over.

The November meeting among others is expected to adopt articles 17 and 18 of the convention which amongst other things call for governments to stop financial and technical support towards tobacco farmers and restrict production by regulating the seasons for the growing of the golden leaf.

They also call for a ban in minimum support prices and leaf auction, reduce the area allocated for tobacco production and dismantle all bodies connecting growers with governments.

The petition which was presented to Mwanza by Reuben Maigwa, Tama president urges government to accede to the FCTC so that the farmers’ voice can be heard from within the FCTC.

It further urges government to reject the ‘irrational, ill-conceived and destructive’ proposals, and think of a more realistic approach that is going to help farmers adapt if and when the demand decline for tobacco comes into effect.

“We also urge government to liaise with the African Union (AU) and Commonwealth Market for East and Southern Africa (Comesa) and indeed other countries and organizations to assist in resisting the FCTC inconsiderate new proposals,” reads part of the petition.

It further blames FCTC for not consulting with farmers when drafting the articles contrary to its own guiding principle, stating, “WHO should ensure full involvement of growers to come up with a scientifically verifiable and viable alternative crop to tobacco as per the FCTC’s own text point 3, guiding principle 2, which emphasizes on growers consultation and involvement, but is not the case currently.”

On the other hand Mwanza said that government is seriously looking into the possibility of ratifying the charter saying that at the moment it is following the right procedures to make sure that the decision that comes out of it is in the best interest of the Malawi nation.

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ZIMENE MUMAKONDA

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