Despite low rainfall, COVID 19 pandemic and other climatic change effects, Zambia projects to increase tobacco harvest by 25% and generate US$92 million at the close of the marketing season next month, according to national consolidated data.
Approved sales floors as at close of 12 August were 35,000 kilograms against the projected 33,000,000kgs with flue cured Virginia recording 27,000,000 kgs and air cured burley projected at 6,000,000.
By 12 August this year the projected target had been surpassed by US$3 million with a total value of tobacco sold so far being US$92.5 million as at 5 August. A total 31,785,549 kgs of flue cured Virginia was harvested, 6000,000297,366 kgs from burley tobacco brand as at 5 August ahead of the close of the marketing season on 30 September.
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Agriculture minister Reuben Mtolo told the International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA) Africa Congress in Lusaka, Wednesday that the sector had performed well during the season despite various headwinds coupled with low investment which affected output of the majority small holder growers that chiefly depend on rainfall.
With improved extension and farmer education services well as dedication to the industry, it was gratifying the country had performed beyond expectations. He assured sector players of Government’s commitment to provide favourable policies to lure investment coupled with new technologies by farmers to tap into the under-utilised potential in the sector.
“I’m assuring you of favourable and stable policies and incentives environment. To this effect Government is is now in the process of enacting a new legal framework for the industry that will bring about effective regulation and foresee improved private stakeholders participation across the tobacco value chain,” minister Mtolo stated.
With the Government remaining keen to render unwavering support to tobacco industry and in as much as it endeavors to remain food secure efforts are underway to create markets to motivate farmers and enable them grow high value crops including tobacco while promoting outgrower programmes among the farmers in all the cash crops to ensure increased incomes and ultimately reduce poverty.
Under the national agriculture policy and the 8th National Development Plan, emphasizing on crop diversification, it remains the Government’s desire to ensure all programmes are supported to raise profitability among all actors within the value chain and help reduce poverty amongst the farmers.
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And ITGA regretted the setbacks faced in the sector globally heightened by the outbreak of the pandemic which exerted losses on farmers spurred by among other factors, lockdowns which ultimately attracted restrictions on global trade and shipping.
“The cost of production has gone up in all producing countries and this can never be reversed.” Its president, Abel Kalima Banda.
The Tobacco Board of Zambia’s president Mr. Adam Gordon commended the ITGA for its unwavering role in ensuring the sector remains viable amid several challenges with a call for sustained networking.