LISBON, Portugal--(BUSINESS WIRE)--An independent Economic Impact Assessment (EIA) Report issued today concludes that 3.6 million jobs in the tobacco-growing sector in five poverty-stricken African countries are at serious risk because of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) proposals.
The EIA Report, “The role of burley tobacco in African economies and the expected impact of a decline in the crop's production”, shows that more than 3.6 million people in Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe are directly dependent on tobacco production for their livelihoods. A further 12 million people are directly and indirectly affected by developments in the countries' tobacco sectors. The report highlights the fact that in a worse case scenario in which global demand for burley collapses, the economy of Malawi could shrink by 20% within a year. The report goes on to note that such a once-off economic shock would take Malawi several decades to recover. The knock-on effect regionally would be significant.
The latest WHO guidelines for the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) recommend banning the use of ingredients in tobacco products. A ban would eliminate blended cigarettes that account for half of global consumption and drastically reduce the demand for burley and oriental tobacco used to make these products as a result. 171 countries will decide on whether or not to adopt these guidelines at the next WHO Conference of the Parties (COP) meeting which will be held in Uruguay from November 15 to 20. The ban is being proposed despite WHO acknowledgments that products without ingredients are just as harmful as those with.
Commenting on the EIA Report, Antonio Abrunhosa, CEO of the International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA), said: "It confirms what we have been saying for many months. If these WHO guidelines are adopted, some of Africa’s poorest countries that rely on tobacco growing are going to face huge social and economic crises with unprecedented job loss. Seventy percent of workers in Malawi alone are directly or indirectly employed by the tobacco-growing sector. They have no alternative and the WHO isn’t offering one either.”
In spite of ringing the alarm bells, the ITGA's request for a seat at the table has been rejected by the WHO, which has dismissed farmers as “interferences”. But more and more countries are questioning the approach taken by the WHO, starting with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), which called on its 19 member states at a recent summit, to reject the WHO proposals and urged the WHO to provide for proper consultation mechanisms for the affected stakeholders.
In September, the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) 15 member states endorsed a similar decision to oppose the WHO proposals, and in recent weeks, the African Union’s (AU) Ministers of Agriculture and Trade have also expressed concern about the guidelines asking for decisions to be put back.
“The report shows clearly what a devastating effect this could have in Africa and how important it is for the WHO to fully understand what proposals like these can lead to. Decisions taken behind closed doors like the ones about to be taken in Uruguay should not be tolerated; not when millions of livelihoods are on the line. It cannot be up to health ministers and anti-tobacco groups to decide on what and where farmers can grow. We call on governments that will attend the Uruguay meeting to put a stop to this before it’s too late.” concludes Abrunhosa.
Notes to Editors:
1. To view the report go to: http://ingredientsban.tobaccoleaf.org/
2. The International Tobacco Growers' Association (ITGA) is a non-profit organization founded in 1984 with the objective of presenting the cause of millions of tobacco farmers to the world. ITGA strives to provide a strong collective voice on an international and national scale in order to ensure the long-term security of tobacco leaf markets. Its members consist of tobacco growers from 26 countries, representing 85% of the world's tobacco production.
3. The Report was researched and written by NKC, a leading international economics consultancy.
4. The WHO Conference of the Parties takes place in Punta del Este, Uruguay between 15-20 November, 2010.
5. The 3.6 million potential job losses covers tobacco farmers, curers, processors, sellers, fertilizer providers and crop harvesters.