Zimbabwe targets US$5bn tobacco value chain

Ominous Tobacco Field at dusk. Notice two iny windmills visible on the horizon

CABINET has approved the Tobacco Value Chain Transformation Plan aimed at transforming the tobacco value chain into a US$5 billion industry by 2025.

This will be achieved through localisation of tobacco financing, increased production and productivity, value addition and beneficiation, and exports of cigarettes.

The Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement, Dr Anxious Masuka, presented the strategy before Cabinet on Tuesday.

“The initiatives should contribute significantly to Gross Domestic Product growth, foreign currency generation and employment creation, thereby raising household incomes in pursuit of Vision 2030,” said Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister, Monica Mutsvangwa, in a post media briefing.

Tobacco is one of the top foreign currency earners in Zimbabwe. Official data already shows that 205,9 million kilogrammes of tobacco worth US$574,8 million had been delivered for auction as at August 23, surpassing this year’s projection of 200 million kg by 2,95 percent.

The 2021 tobacco marketing season officially closed on July 14 and last year the country produced a total of 184 million kg of the golden leaf.

Among others, the strategic objectives of the transformation plan are; to localise the funding of tobacco to complement external funders; raise tobacco production and productivity from 262 million kilogrammes to 300 million kilogrammes by 2025 and to diversify and increase the production of alternative crops such as medicinal cannabis and increase their contribution to the farmers’ incomes to 25 percent by 2025.

The strategy also seeks to increase the level of value addition and beneficiation of tobacco from two percent of total tobacco produced to 30 percent in order to increase exports of cigarettes.

Creating an enabling environment that incentivizes investors to set up shop in the country instead of exporting raw or semi processed tobacco is also a priority.

“The immediate objective is to increase tobacco production and productivity through increasing the yield per unit, increasing the area under crop and minimizing losses,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.

“The above measures are being taken because the country is not getting maximum benefit from its tobacco crop in terms of value addition and beneficiation.”

The Tobacco Research Board is already conducting research on alternate crops such as Chia, Industrial Hemp and Sesame, as well as other types of tobacco such as Shisha, which is very popular in the Middle East.

Research is also being conducted into the extraction of high-value compounds from tobacco, such as nicotine, solanesol and edible oil.

“Preliminary studies have already been done on the extraction of tobacco edible oil and identified varieties that could be used for oil extraction.

“All these efforts are meant to increase the income that accrues directly to the farmers,” said the minister. – Chronicle