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Tobacco firm gives local farmers more support

Posted in Tobacco & Related

TANZANIA - The maker of Marlboro and other top cigarette brands in the world, Philip Morris International (PMI), has said that it will invest more to support responsible tobacco farming in the country where it is the top buyer of the crop.

Under its Sustainable Tobacco Production model, the New York and Switzerland based conglomerate advocates farming techniques that protects the environment, promote public health and seek to enhance farmers’ incomes.

“PMI is ramping up efforts to implement its Sustainable Tobacco Production model among the nation’s 65 000 contracted tobacco-growing families,” it said in a statement.

PMI purchases tobacco from three suppliers in Tanzania, contributing more than US$150-million (nearly 325bn/-) annually to the economic development of the country’s rural areas.

The major areas where the crop is cultivated in the country include Tabora, Morogoro and Mara regions. Despite persistent calls by activists to have it eliminated, tobacco is among Tanzania’s major agricultural cash crops, which is a crucial source of income to farmers and a top foreign exchange earner for the national economy.

Apart from health related concerns, the anti-tobacco lobby led by Tanzania Tobacco Control Forum (TTCF) also associate the growing of the crop with deforestation and the worsening extreme weather conditions as well as its involvement is child labour.

While researches have proved the economic viability of doing without the crop, many farmers are reluctant to abandon its farming since no alternative activities have been offered to them. 

The idea does not also augur well with the government, which gets a third of its tax revenues from the sector. Most importantly are the international firms that spend sleepless nights to ensure the idea of eliminating tobacco farming fails.

Government revenue generated by the industry is estimated at around US$50 million annually.

According to the latest review of the economy by the Bank of Tanzania, tobacco exports generated US$322.6 million in the year ending August compared to US$348.9 in the corresponding period last year. The exported volumes of the crop during the two periods were 68,100 tonnes and 72,600 tonnes respectively.

According to the PMI’s website, more than 70 per cent of its tobacco comes from Brazil, Turkey, the US, Malawi, Indonesia, China, Argentina, Philippines, Mozambique and Tanzania.

Philip Morris International is the world's second-biggest cigarette seller, behind state-controlled China National Tobacco Corp. Richmond-based Altria Group Inc., the owner of Philip Morris USA, spun off Philip Morris International as a separate company in 2008. Altria is the largest US cigarette seller.

PMI Director Leaf Africa Ben Jowett said that as part of its tobacco sourcing commitments in Tanzania, PMI has supported a number of initiatives to improve the sustainability and efficiency of tobacco farmers.

“PMI recognises that with improved agricultural practices, farmers can increase their yield and quality of the leaf thus helping increase their returns,” he said.

Jowett said the focus across Africa remained on encouraging sustainable tobacco production. PMI strived to ensure the efficient and competitive production of quality tobacco in conditions that limited as much as possible the impact on the environment and improved the socioeconomic conditions of the people and communities involved.

November 6, 2015;