Philippine tobacco growers joined peers in several other countries to commemorate World Tobacco Grower’s Day amid uncertainties and what they described as “undemocratic tactics” being employed by a United Nations agency.
Other countries joining this celebration are Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Colombia, the Indonesia, India, Malawi, Macedonia, Tanzania, and Zambia.
World Tobacco Grower’s Day (WTGD), celebrated for the fourth year in a row, is an initiative promoted by the International Tobacco Growers’ Association (ITGA) since 2012. With the WTGD, tobacco-growing communities around the world seek to jointly defend the sector’s legitimacy by publicizing the significant contribution made by tobacco to their regions and countries.
ITGA is a non-profit entity that promotes the cause of millions of tobacco growers around the world. The ITGA advocates the inclusion of tobacco growers in global discussions, trying to provide them with a strong collective voice in the international arena to ensure protection for them and their families.
Growers insist on the fact that they grow a legal crop for a legal market, and that tobacco provides a livelihood to millions of growers, rural workers and their families around the world.
The ITGA had expressed their displeasure over the “undemocratic” and “exclusionary” tactics of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) to ban appointed and elected officials from participating in the Conference of Parties (CoP7) to be held in Delhi, India this November.
Last month, the ITGA called on United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to intervene on their behalf by exercising his authority to look into this breach of international law and ensure that the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) conforms with its obligations under the UN Charter.
“The ITGA hereby kindly and respectfully requests that you exercise your authority, as Secretary General of the United Nations and guardian of the UN Charter, to ensure that the FCTC fulfils its obligations under the Charter and operates in an inclusive and transparent manner, “ ITGA President Francois van der Merwe and CEO Antonio Abrunhosa wrote in a letter to the UN chief dated Sept. 21, 2016.
With the WTGD, tobacco growers around the world also wish to collectively demand from their governments a sustainable future in the face of uncertainties faced by the tobacco market as a result of a steep decline in demand, without any present options that may ensure the subsistence of tobacco-growing communities.
Ongoing regulatory measures are also a source of grave concern for the sector. Such will be discussed in the COP7 next month in India.
Growers and their associations recognize the need to introduce measures to curb tobacco consumption but, in more than 10 years since the inception of the WHO FCTC, they have not been afforded any opportunity, not a single one, to participate and present the sector’s realities.
In the same period, the WHO FCTC has grossly underestimated the consequences of many of its proposed measures and refused to understand that most of them would not have any impact on consumption but would indeed affect, irreparably, the livelihood of tobacco growers and their families.
“Philippine tobacco growers have watched with utter frustration the increasingly stronger exclusion measures imposed by the WHO FCTC, which we consider totally inappropriate, particularly because they come from a UN organization that claims that transparency is the guiding principle in all processes under the WHO FCTC, as evidenced in statements made by Dr da Costa e Silva,” said Saturnino Distor, President of the Philtobacco Growers Association.
Tobacco is a substantial source of income in the Philippines. Tobacco growers demand that their right to consultation in the development of any policy that affects them directly be guaranteed; the significant economic contribution made by tobacco to the economies of growing countries be recognized; sound and thorough market assessments are conducted when proposing measures.