The International Tobacco Growers’ Association (ITGA) held its 35th annual general meeting online for the first time in history. This new experience presented a unique opportunity to open the session to a wider range of participants. As a result, the event attracted 174 attendees from four continents and 24 countries.
The 2020 gathering kicked off with the finance committee on Nov 18th, a closed session for ITGA members only, followed by the “issues day” on Nov 24.
The issues day was opened by Malawi’s Minister of Agriculture, Robin Lowe, who discussed the challenges and prospects facing growers in the wake of a global pandemic and deepening economic crisis. Lowe reinforced the government of Malawi’s commitment to the tobacco sector and all its stakeholders.
ITGA President Abiel Kalima Banda emphasized the resilience of the tobacco sector and the importance of collaboration throughout the supply chain, while Antonio Abrunhosa, ITGA’s CEO, stressed the mission of the association, as the only global voice of tobacco growers, to defend the growers from the effects of new regulations that are putting ever more pressure on their daily activities.
The panel comprised 14 speakers that covered a wide range of topics, including a global tobacco market overview, innovations for sustainable agriculture, social and environmental good practices.
ITGA tobacco industry expert Ivan Genov analyzed the tobacco leaf market providing the latest production data and forecasts. Despite the prevailing volume declines across multiple markets, Shane MacGuill, Euromonitor’s senior head of tobacco research, noted that the consumption of tobacco products remained stable amid the pandemic. However, the crisis could establish a new, more restrictive normal for tobacco control, he added.
MacGuill also discussed the emerging demand for new substances and the growth potential of the legal cannabis market. In relation to the increasing need to diversify, William Snell, co-director of the Kentucky agricultural leadership program highlighted opportunities in the hemp industry.
The issues day also featured representatives from major tobacco manufacturers, merchants and suppliers. Speakers included Vuk Pribic, leaf supply chain due diligence director at Japan Tobacco International; Carlos Palma, sustainable agriculture global manager at British American Tobacco; Lea Scott, vice-president of agronomy services at Universal Leaf Tobacco Co.; and Gary Foote, head of global sustainability at Alliance One International.
UNITAB Secretary General Przemyslaw Noworyta discussed the future of tobacco growing in the European Union; Heliodoro Campos Castillo, manager of the National Tobacco Fund in Colombia highlighted the tobacco-growing sector’s resilience in Colombia; and Mayiwepi Jiti, founder and president of Zimbabwe Integrated Commercial Farmers Union shared her view on the agricultural labor practices and challenges in the country.
Karima Jambulatova, executive director at ECLT Foundation, and Nadia Fengler Solf, manager at the Growing Up Right Institute addressed the problem of child labor.
Matija Zulj, CEO of AGRIVI, and Rodrigo Tissera, head of business at KILIMO, shared their visions on innovation in the tobacco sector with presentations about e-agriculture.