October 29, 2012 (London) — To mark the first-ever World Tobacco Growers’ Day (#WTGD) today, tobacco farmers across the globe are taking part in dozens of events to highlight the disastrous impact World Health Organisation proposals will have on their livelihoods if passed by parties to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in just two weeks’ time.
“We’re celebrating the benefits our farms bring to our communities and asking our leaders to stand with us, to hear our voices, and to give us the opportunity to work together to protect our way of life,” said Antonio Abrunhosa, chief executive officer of the International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA). Abrunhosa is leading the events worldwide and plans to carry the growers’ message to the FCTC’s Fifth Conference of the Parties (COP5) in Seoul, Korea next month.
WTGD begins an annual effort to bring together the world’s 30 million tobacco growers. Events in dozens of countries across four continents today demonstrate the social and economic contribution farmers make to their communities, to remember the heritage of this sector and to educate the public about the issues impacting their livelihoods.
The 2012 WTGD events focus on the threat currently facing the world’s tobacco farmers from the FCTC. At COP5 it will vote on recommendations to:
- Artificially limit or reduce the land to cultivate and deny farmers the right to grow tobacco
- Regulate the seasons of the year in which tobacco farming is allowed
- Ban tobacco famers from working with their clients to improve crops yields, health and safety conditions and the crops environmental impacts to improve practices, health and safety conditions, prevent labor abuses, and minimize environmental impact
- Dismantle the bodies relating tobacco farmers with their governments
- Introduce mandatory “rehabilitation programs” that would force growers into other crops, regardless of the economic viability of that crop
“We are also asking governments to join us today and step back from the WHO abyss and protect, not penalise, poor tobacco farmers,” Abrunhosa said. He pointed out that these recommendations run contrary to the original intent of the FCTC ’ s treaty, which was to provide “technical and financial assistance to aid the economic transition of tobacco growers and workers “ if and when a decline in tobacco consumption results in lower demand for the crop.
“These draconian proposals are putting tobacco farmers under unprecedented attack from bureaucrats who are looking to artificially reduce the supply of tobacco without providing growers any viable alternatives to support their families,” said Abrunhosa. ”Contrary to FCTC’s claims, not a single smoker will stop smoking because of these proposals. All they will do is spread misery among farmers and their families in some of the least developed countries in the world. We are asking the FCTC to respect its own principles and accept growers’ knowledge and opinion on issues that impact their livelihoods.”