October 2023 – The National Commission on the Implementation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (CONIQ) was the target of questionings at a round table promoted by the House of Representatives, in Brasília. With the participation of deputies, entities linked to the tobacco supply chain, entrepreneurial leaderships and representatives of the federal government, the meeting was held in hybrid format, on Thursday October 26.
The criticisms directed at the Commission, led by Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva, include failure to disclose the calendar of the meetings and the documents under debate; the fact that the farmers, the ones that are most affected, are not allowed to attend the meetings; failure in giving publicity to the minutes and deliberations. From November 20 – 25, Brazil will attend the 10th Conference of the parties of the FCTC, to be held in Panamá.
Questioned about the next meetings and the transparency to CONICQ’s deliberations, which could affect thousands of tobacco growing families in Brazil, Vera only commented that the positions of the Brazilian delegation are discussed internally and are of restricted character. Still according to her, Brazilian government stances and negotiations remain restricted until fully negotiated. “CONICQ has no deliberative character, nothing is decided without the approval of the President of the Country”, she declared.
According to her, the production of tobacco will not be addressed at COP 10 and this question is not a part of the treaty. “There is no mention of any action that could have direct impacts on the supply chain”. At the same time, she affirms that global demand for tobacco is gradually dropping. We are here to make this transition to happen in the least painful way, in the medium and long run”, she added.
About the chances to attend the Conference, Vera was emphatic. “We have had a very strict policy in denying access to the cops to people who are not credentialed and people who have a conflict of interest. The secretariat, based at the WHO headquarters, has the credentials to deny the participation, if some kind of relationship with the industry is at stake”, she explained. In past editions, there were forced evictions of parliament members, representatives of entities linked to the tobacco farmers and even journalists that covered the event.
Iro Schünke, president of the Interstate Tobacco Industry Union (SindiTabaco), backed up the other representatives in their request for more transparency. “Today were told here that there are fakenews circulating about the COP 10, that there has never been any attempt to endanger the production of tobacco, but we know that this is not true. The truth has to come out: there is no other dictatorship in the world like the Framework Convention. We see a methodical battle against the production of tobacco, it suffices to recall what the antismoking activists said in May, at a campaign open to the entire Brazilian population, embarrassing farmers and warning them to stop producing tobacco and start growing food crops. They accuse the sector of deforestation, but it is the segment that has the biggest forest areas; they maintain that the tobacco farmers are going through a situation of vulnerability, but the research conducted by CEPA/UFRGS effectively attested the opposite; they say that demand for the product is declining, but the historical average attests to stable tobacco production and exports in Brazil. Those who spread such lies, surely do not know the sector”, the chief executive officer commented in his participation.
BRAZILIAN STANCE – Ricardo Pires, deputy chief at the Global Health Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), commented that it is a temporary agenda and will be approved by the Parties on the first day of the Conference. About the Brazilian position, he commented that it is not the Itamaraty that defines the position of Brazil in this case and that the CONICQ, for the fact that it relies on inter-ministerial support and there is a prediction based on a decree, is the forum for it. He also stressed that, should there be any interference in the production of tobacco, the Brazilian delegation, representing Brazil at COP10, is going to respect the interpretative Declaration signed when the FCTC was ratified and sets forth the protection of tobacco farming in the Country.
Nonetheless, what is a cause for concern for the leaderships of the sector is the fact that in other COPs the Brazilian delegation was in favor of restrictive measures to the tobacco supply chain, which did not come to fruition due to political pressure. Issues that have already been on the agenda include, for example, restrictions that affected production, the organization of representative entities of the sector, technical assistance and credit lines for family farmers and the planted area.
TO KNOW – Brazil has been the top tobacco exporter for 30 years now. In the past season, according to data from the Tobacco Growers’ Association of Brazil (Afubra), out of the 1,191 municipalities in the South Region of Brazil, 490 produced tobacco. The total number of families involved with the crop amounts to 125 thousand, with a gross income estimated at nearly R$ 11 billion. In terms of comparison, the performance of tobacco, in financial terms, is equivalent to 6.37 hectares of soybean and 7.66 hectares of corn. Know more at: www.sinditabaco.com.br
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