Despite Tobacco facing a number of challenges from Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and the anti-smoking lobby, President Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika has hinted that the country will continue growing the green gold, saying people started smoking even before Jesus Christ walked on this earth.

Mutharika emphasized this in an exclusive interview with London-based New African Magazine of July 28, 2015.

In the interview, Mutharika hinted that Tobacco is the main foreign exchange earner forms about 60% and cannot be stopped just overnight.

“People have the option to smoke or not to smoke. We are not forcing them to smoke, we are just growing tobacco so we don’t have to feel guilty.Tobacco forms about 60% of our foreign exchange earnings. When I was in Washington last year, I talked to all the big US tobacco companies about the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and the activities of the tobacco lobby.

“The market is going to go down, no doubt about it; but somebody is always going to smoke, whether it is in Vietnam or China or Taiwan. People have been smoking since time immemorial, even before Jesus Christ walked on this earth. And people will continue to smoke. So there will always be a market, it may be smaller, but it will be there,” said Mutharika.

Mutharika said the country just need to diversify the economy from tobacco, by going into mining and other cash crops.

“We are going to put one million hectares of land under irrigation at Salima near Lake Malawi to grow rice, legumes, sugar cane, and mangoes. We hope that with mining and diversification for other crops, we can reduce our dependence on tobacco,” said Mutharika.

Added Mutharika: “I was even told by the US tobacco giant, Philip Morris, that they are coming up with new forms of tobacco because of the danger inherent in smoking. They are also going to increase their research into less dangerous tobacco to ensure that the industry survives. At the moment Malawi is dependent on tobacco, but we are moving away slowly to other areas.”

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ZIMENE MUMAKONDA

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