Government has raised concern over the static production of tobacco in the country, over the past years.
Minister of Agriculture Mtolo Phiri says there is a need to put mechanisms in place that support the increase in production and processing of tobacco in Zambia.
Speaking when he graced the 2022 tobacco marketing season, Mr Phiri said in the 2021 Agricultural season, the country expected to produce about 36.7 metric tons of tobacco which fall far short in comparison to neighbouring countries like Malawi and Zimbabwe.
“To support the increase in production, marketing and processing of tobacco, the government is committed to establishing an enabling policy and operational environment that benefits all stakeholders in the industry, from the farmers to the merchants.” He said.
Mr. Phiri further explained that the legislation that regulates the tobacco industry in the country is old and outdated, adding that it does not meet the aspirations of the sector.
“This state of legislation is of concern to both government and the private sector players. I am delighted to announce that the Ministry of Agriculture, with input from various private players, has made significant progress in reviewing the legislation,” he said.
Mr. Phiri however commended the Tobacco Board of Zambia for its tireless efforts in coordinating the tobacco industry and ensuring that government and the private sector continue to have progressive and harmonious interactions.
And Tobacco Board of Zambia Chief Executive Officer James Kasongo said good weather conditions coupled with the huge private investment and increased demand for the Zambian tobacco at the world market, will continue to take its rightful place in the crop sector.
Mr. Kasongo said if the tobacco industry is well harnessed, it will contribute positively to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and foreign exchange earnings as well as improve the living standards of the people within the tobacco value chain.
Mr. Kasongo said one of the key issues affecting the tobacco industry has been poor registration of growers which has been a recipe for tobacco side marketing and vending impacting negatively the tobacco sponsors in terms of loan recoveries and most importantly affecting the traceability of the Zambian crop.
“To counter this, Tobacco Board of Zambia is working with industry stakeholders and has put in place the electronic farmer registration and booking system (Bright Leaf System) to enhance the farmer registration.
“The system has been linked to the Tobacco Association of Zambia (TAZ) booking system to provide real time data on sales processes on the floor. The system plays a critical role in the traceability of the crop growers registered,” he said.
And Japan Tobacco International (JTI) Zambia General Manager Litiya Matakala said since JTI Zambia’s inception in 2010 there has been a tenfold increase in the company’s operations.
“This has mainly been driven by a focus on developing people, investing in sustainable tobacco production and exploring efficiencies in our supply chain,” he said.
Mr. Matakala said this approach has yielded great results for the local tobacco company, including becoming the first tobacco company in Zambia to gain recognition by the prestigious institute for four years running.
“This award is a clear recognition of our people centric strategy which prioritizes diversity, environmental, health and safety as well as mental wellbeing.
Through contract farming, JTI partners and finances crop inputs for over 7, 000 small scale growers to the value of 8.6 million dollars per annum. Leading to an annual output of over 13 million kilograms of tobacco, valued at approximately US 46.50 million dollars in export revenue,” Mr. Matakala added.