New Delhi: A week ahead of the meeting of the WHO`s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the International Tobacco Growers` Association (ITGA) today asked India to raise tobacco growers` concern at the meeting.
"There is no representation of tobacco growers at Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) meeting. The people behind FCTC are only concerned about health issue and not growers` concerns. Some of the draft policy recommendations are completely against the interest of growers," Portugal-based ITGA Chief Executive Antonio Abrunhosa told.
The FCTC meeting to be held in Seoul, South Korea, on November 12-17 would discuss draft recommendations on phasing out tobacco farming world over in a move to curb smoking.
The objective of the FCTC treaty, ratified by 117 countries, including India, is to reduce the number of smokers, which are estimated at 1.2 billion at present.
The recommendations such as curbing financial support to tobacco farmers, shifting to alternative crop and ensuring envirnomentally sustainable production are "real threat for tobacco producing communities," he said.
More than 30 million growers world over would lose their source of income. They cannot shift to other crops as there is no single study, not even from the WHO, that suggests alternative crop for tobacco, he noted.
ITGA, which is creating awareness about the possible impact of these recommendations across the world, said: "Growing countries including India should send their representative from Agriculture Ministry to strongly represent their growers` concern in the forthcoming meeting."
Noting that the UN agency cannot regulate tobacco farming without listening to growers, Abrunhosa said, "As number of smokers are not coming down, the WHO wants to see if smoking can be reduced by curbing tobacco production. But health experts alone cannot decide the fate of growers without knowing the ground realities."
The WHO has all rights to take measures on consumption side of tobacco, but on production, it should listen to growers and farm experts, he added.
"Not a one smoker is going to stop smoking if production is curbed because supply will come from other countries who have not signed the FCTC."
The US, Malawi, Argentina, Zimbabwe and Indonesia are not signatory to the FCTC and has more than 50 per cent share in tobacco exports.
Highlighting that number of smokers are expected to touch 1.6 billion by 2025, ITGA said, "When number of smokers are increasing, why should we punish growers for this."
Global tobacco production is around four million tonnes. More than half of it is produced in China, while India`s output is around 700,000 tonnes.