Tobacco farmers under the umbrella body Uganda Tobacco Growers Association (UTGA) consisting of 60,000 farmers from 25 districts in West Nile, Bunyoro, Mubende, and North Kigezi have urged the Speaker of Parliament Hon. Rebecca Kadaga to put their views on the Tobacco Control Bill 2014 into consideration before the bill is tabled before parliament.
Addressing the reporters in Kampala on Tuesday, Peter Atria, the Chairman West Nile Tobacco Farmers Association and member of UTGA, said any factor in the Bill that affects the tobacco industry also affects farmers who grow tobacco. “Our enterprise is unique in that we can only sell our produce to tobacco companies and any law or other measure that negatively affects the tobacco industry will eventually be borne by the tobacco farmers in one way or another,” he said.
“We believe that any restrictions on tobacco companies that will curtail their ability to render their full support to our activities as stated in this petition will also have a negative impact on us. We call upon the Speaker of Parliament to safeguard the interests of our members by ensuring our involvement, consultation and by not supporting any sections of the law that would have such effects on us,” Mr Atria, added.
“We call upon the Speaker, the Health Committee, Parliament and all other policymakers to take up this matter seriously for the good of all farmers who benefit from tobacco and for the safety of our economic interests. Tobacco growing is a legitimate activity and contributes immensely to our economic wellbeing,” Mr Atria said.
Jesse Kasaijja, the Chairman Bunyoro-Mubende Tobacco Farmers Association said that while the Tobacco Control Bill has taken into consideration the national public health interests, and those of international Non-Governmental Organizations, the Bill does not cater for the interests of tobacco farmers in Uganda.
“We sign this petition to oppose the introduction of any measures that have the potential of frustrating tobacco farming through making the operations of tobacco companies difficult or unprofitable. When the government puts in place any negative restrictions, fair, and companies operating legally and which have assured us of our livelihoods for a long time might shrink or leave and this will expose us to uncertainty and lack of reliable incomes,” he said. The farmers also handed over lists of over 5,000 signatures collected from tobacco farmers and their families from across the country, alongside their petition to the Speaker.
Mr Tadeo Girimani, Chairman Kanungu Tobacco Farmers Association said, “we oppose the proposed repeal of the Tobacco (Control and Marketing) Act because we enjoy all the benefits and security explained above because of this law, and repealing it will directly and negatively affect our only reliable and sustainable source of incomes. The repeal of this law opens us to exploitation and abuse by any party that may take advantage of the absence of the current legal protection.” Clause 49 of the Bill proposes to repeal the Tobacco Control and Marketing Act cap 35 which is the sole regulation on tobacco growing in Uganda.
In their Petition, the farmers state that tobacco is the only reliable source of income in their respective areas. “We would like to bring it to your attention, Madam Speaker, that tobacco growing is the only reliable source of income from agriculture for our group. Our Tobacco farming activities provide all our members with a reliable source of money for our food, children’s school fees, our medical bills, building our homes and providing for our other day to day needs. Any measures that affect the industry we rely on without providing alternative and equal protection for us will affect our livelihoods and sustainability,” their petition reads in part.