‘Tobacco industry has potential to earn US$5bn’

Elita Chikwati

Agriculture Reporter

Zimbabwe could quintuple earnings from tobacco by promoting research, development and innovation in the tobacco industry to extract more value, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister Anxious Masuka said yesterday.

Zimbabwe earns around US$1 billion annually, but Minister Masuka said that if appropriate interventions are made, the industry could be transformed into a US$5 billion business.

He was touring the Kutsaga Research Station where the Tobacco Research Board is housed.

Minister Masuka was accompanied by board chairman Mr Stanley Mutepfa and board chief executive Dahlia Garwe, as he toured the hemp and cannabis fields, tobacco curing facilities, tobacco fields and seed potato facilities.

He said Zimbabwe produced six percent of the world tobacco and getting US$1,65 billion at most.

“We want to be at US$5 billion by 2025 and an additional US$10 billion by 2030. We are want to invite all stakeholders on the transformative journey,” he said.

It has already been declared a Government policy to do more manufacturing in Zimbabwe so the country exports finished products rather than raw leaf.

Dr Masuka said the Tobacco Research Board was important in the value chain.

“I worked here for 20 years so it is also home coming to be able to see the new role of the TRB in light of the current discussion to transform the tobacco sector getting to exports. Tobacco is one of the biggest foreign currency earners. If we look at the global level, you can see we can generate more.

“The discussion is on where can we extract value and we are looking at research, development and innovation to anchor that growth, that transformation,” he said.

Minister Masuka said he was impressed by the TRB who are the sole breeder of tobacco varieties.

“I was given assurance that they have eight years stock of seed which is an encouraging for a nation that wants to expands production. We saw some of experiments concerning diseases, we have seen the commercial crop and they are not only leading in research, but are also in terms of production to show that there are varieties that can be produced at a commercial level.

“In terms of the diversification happening at the TRB, I was pleased to see the ongoing work in terms of potato production. We have declared potato as a strategic starch crop in 2021 and we want to see more.

“They have gone a step further and looked at industrial hemp and cannabis for medicinal purposes. They have varieties they are evaluating and early results are exciting; so much is happening and this is relevant to the national development discourse and is key to the transformation of the agriculture sector.

Mr Mutepfa said 98 percent of the tobacco produced in Zimbabwe was exported globally and only two percent was used locally.

“We export to more than 60 countries. Zimbabwe is a global player in the tobacco market.”

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