ITGA President calls on Government to defend tobacco growers

Tobacco growers should be protected, and the defence of the sector needs to be taken very seriously by governments of tobacco growing countries. We need their commitment as recognition for the efforts being made by growers every day.

José Javier Aranda, president of the International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA), made the call during his keynote address at the ZTA Congress.

“We make this plea to the governments of tobacco growing countries, to be our strategic partners, bringing about the right regulations for the good of the long-term sustainability of tobacco production,” he said.

Aranda, a fifth-generation tobacco grower from Salta, Argentina, also shared a message of solidarity with his Zimbabwean counterparts: “Today, we are share common challenges and also the same willingness to defend our tobacco growing community. It is overwhelmingly difficult to be a tobacco grower these days in this ever-increasingly changing context, with skyrocketing costs of production, negotiations with our buyers, climate change, and the never-ending attacks to our sector by the World Health (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). These attacks are demonising our sector, without considering what it means for our regions, our people and the income that tobacco generates for our economies.”

“I am particularly delighted to be here today because the ZTA, as an association, has been a driving force in our international organisation, ITGA. As a founding member of the ITGA, the ZTA has played a fundamental role throughout the almost 40 years of ITGA, with its contributions to our main objective, being the sustainability of tobacco production to the people and countries where it still generates important incomes for livelihoods.”

Later, Aranda referred to the threat posed by the WHO FCTC who continue to “demonise” the tobacco growing sector and urged unity in taking a stand against this. “Tobacco growers are ready to have a balanced discussion, where appropriate measures against consumption can be taken, without compromising the livelihoods of more than 40 million tobacco growers around the world.”

“Let us maintain unity and a consistent position, so together, as members of all tobacco growing countries, we can carry on with our mission to defend the global tobacco growing community and continue our production with its positive impact on our economies.

Aranda also paid tribute to Zimbabwe’s tobacco producing history and size on the global and African stage. He also acknowledged that our tobacco is still considered one of the best quality tobaccos in the world and as such, reminded the assembled producers to be proud to defend it.

The International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA) was founded in 1984 by the six main tobacco exporting countries of that time:  Argentina, Brazil, Canada (which does not produce tobacco anymore), the United States of America, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Since 1984, the ITGA has grown and now has more than 22 tobacco growing countries as members. It is the only global association defending the interests of more than 40 million tobacco growers worldwide.

The ITGA was formed after Zimbabwe reentered the global tobacco market upon Independence. Officials from the Zimbabwe Tobacco Association made fact finding visits to international end markets and other source markets. These initiatives led to the hosting of the first meeting, held in Harare, of the ITGA, in 1983. Growers from the USA, Canada, Argentina and Malawi attended. This led to the association’s first conference in November that year, in Canada. Brazil was nominated as the sixth founder member. Roy Ashburner, the ZTA President at the time, was elected to the office of President. ZTA established and maintained the ITGA secretariat at its offices in Nelson Mandela avenue and did so until it relocated towards the end of the last century.

The secretariat moved to Portugal when Antonio Abrunhosa was appointed chief executive. He was succeeded by Mercedes Vazquez in 2020. Today, the ITGA continues to be the only unified voice of the global tobacco community and continues to lobby and defend tobacco growers’ rights against the threat of WHO FCTC.

The ITGA is a voluntary organisation with common goals and objectives. Part of its core objectives are to develop strategies to stabilise supply and prices, to publicise and promote the socio-economic importance of tobacco, to defend the rights of tobacco farmers and insuring national and international policy makers take cognisance of farmers’ concerns. It represents the interests of tobacco farmers through regular engagement with international organisations whose actions impact on growers. It unites growers worldwide by building mutual understanding and sharing non-competitive tobacco-growing information. The ITGA also provides data on production from members and non-members through its website. This is updated regularly and is vital to members who produce similar styles of tobacco leaf.

A secondary core function of the ITGA is addressing the regulatory environment. This has changed so much that it is no longer just a matter for the manufacturers. 

The ITGA coordinates with members and supporting members and are involved in the process of strengthening relationships, building trust and developing strategic partnerships to fight the pressure being brought on tobacco growers by the WHO FCTC. Only cooperation and strategic partnerships within the value chain will ensure a sustainable future for its grower members.

Tobacco continues to be one of the most labour intensive agricultural sectors in the world, employing millions.

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