Tobacco production in Zambia is at an all-time low as compared to Malawi and Zimbabwe, said Rhidah Mungomba, Tobacco Board of Zambia Chairperson.
“Today our national production has fallen to an all-time low of 23 million kg/year compared to Zimbabwe’s 180 million and Malawi’s 150 million,” Mungomba told the 2017/’18 national tobacco premarketing meeting in Lusaka.
Tobacco production contributes only 9% to Zambia’s gross domestic product, while Zimbabwe’s producers contribute 14% and Malawi’s 60%.
The export of tobacco leaf increased from roughly US$1.7 million in 1995 to US$156.5 million in 2012. While tobacco leaf as a percentage of total exports for Zambia is rather small, it is an important cash crop for some 10 000 smallholder farmers, and a significant source of employment in the country.
The industry’ lack of processing and manufacturing plants have resulted in the loss of much needed foreign exchange and jobs. “Currently, the tobacco sector has only produced 48 000 direct jobs. This can be much higher with value-addition being done locally,” Mungomba said.
While producers call for more investment in processing plants, Zambia face duelling objectives to strengthen tobacco production and its obligations to the World Health Organisation Framework Convention of Tobacco Control to regulate and control the production of the crop.