Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda has said Malawi will not stop growing tobacco, the economy’s main foreign exchange earner,  amidst opposition from anti-smoking group.

Minister of Agriculture George Chaponda (R) inspecting the leaf at Limbe Auction Floors

Minister of Agriculture George Chaponda (R) inspecting the leaf , vows Malawi will continue to grow tobacco

Chaponda said Malawi cannot stop growing tobacco overnight and will continue growing leaf, saying it is the “backbone of the economy” in Malawi.

“We are not and we will not stop growing the crop anytime soon,” Chaponda was speaking on the sidelines of the World Tobacco Growers Day in Lilongwe.

Tobacco is this southern African nation’s main foreign currency earner and accounts for more than 70 percent of exports and 15 percent of GDP. The industry employs an estimated two million of Malawi’s 13 million people.

Chaponda said  the government has done research  and revealed that “there is no crop which can take over from tobacco in as a far as forex generation is concerned.”

He stressed  tobacco is Malawi’s strategic crop and it will remain so for some time to come,

Malawi’s draft economic growth strategy proposes a diversified agricultural sector, where tobacco will be replaced by crops like cotton and cassava.

Greater emphasis on mining, tourism and manufacturing is also planned–although this has been met with scepticism from certain business representatives.

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