MMD national chairperson for agriculture Chishala Chilufya says there is need for the country to constitute a proper indaba and discuss tobacco matters as enshrined in the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
And Chilufya says there’s no other crop that is as lucrative as tobacco. In an interview, Chilufya, also a tobacco farmer, said there were a lot of misleading statements coming from some leaders on
“This issue of FCTC became effective in 2005 and the person who went to sign the treaty on behalf of the government is Dr Brian Chituwo who was then Health minister in the MMD government but again there was a different position which government took afterwards. So I feel Dr Chitalu Chilufya should not treat the FCTC like it has just come now, it has been there and the government has never given its position on it whether it supports it or it supports the tobacco industry,” Chilufya said.
He said the FCTC had conditions indicating that if the country had to move away from tobacco, there must be an alternative crop.
“Now, there has been no alternative crop and again there has to be an alternative package to the farmers who have heavily invested in tobacco like those that have schemes and other things. There is no crop which can be compared to tobacco. The annual income for a farmer who is growing tobacco ranges from $2,000 per hectare to almost $12, 000 dollars per hectare. There is no other crop that can beat tobacco. The only crop which comes second is cashew nut,” Chilufya said.
He said there was need for ministers and those in government to consult people before they make pronouncements.
“I think the best that should be done on this matter is to call for an indaba so that we can come up with consensus, not just pronouncements. I think we need to research intensively before coming up with positions. The tobacco industry has money and it can help improve the economic standing of this country if it is organized,” said Chilufya who added that certain statements were discouraging to investors.
The FCTC is the world first modern-day global public health treaty which provides an internationally co-ordinated response to combating the tobacco epidemic, and sets out specific steps for governments addressing tobacco use.