Zim targets US$60bn tobacco industry by 2028 Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister Dr Anxious Masuka said the main focus was to transform communal farmers from subsistence to surplus-oriented producers.

Edgar Vhera-Agriculture Specialist Writer

WITH the global tobacco industry predicted to be worth US$1 trillion by 2028, Zimbabwe’s tobacco product exports will be worth US$60 billion due to value addition initiatives.

Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister Dr Anxious Masuka on Wednesday opened the inaugural two-day World Tobacco Africa Exposition (Expo) in Harare running under the theme: “From seed to success – a new era for African leaf tobacco”. 

“By 2028, the global tobacco industry will be US$1 trillion, so our tobacco exports will be worth US$60 billion annually. This will be achieved through the export of value-added cigarettes which in 2023 constituted 89 percent of the US$912 billion global trade.” 

Minister Masuka said the sad story of Africa, was that of the US$912 billion traded globally in 2023, Zimbabwe though accounting for six percent of the world’s total production, its exports of raw leaf were a mere US$1,5 billion, nowhere near the six percent value of US$912 billion traded.

“If we were to value add our last year’s raw tobacco exports into cigarettes, we could get between US$50 billion and US$60 billion. Cognisant of that, the Government is operationalising the Tobacco Value Chain Transformation Plan whose main objective is to increase value addition from the current two to 30 percent,” the Minister said.

The plan crafted in 2021 is targeting the sustainable intensification of tobacco production to 300 million kilogrammes of the leaf annually, enhancing transparency and fair tobacco marketing and expanding into new markets in the Middle East. 

It also aims to reform, restructure and rebuild existing institutions in order to optimise tobacco value chain financing and net export benefits from tobacco from the current 12,5 to 70 percent by 2025, facilitate production of alternative crops to tobacco to diversify and increase farmer revenue as well as enhance traceability and sustain production in the face of climate change.

Chronicling the start of tobacco production in the country, Minister Masuka said: “From the early naturalised tobacco production exploits of the people of Binga in the Zambezi valley in the 1400s, to the modern production of Virginia tobacco which commenced commercially in the early 1890s, by the Catholic Jesuits at Shawasha Mission, Zimbabwe has crafted an enviable niche as a world producer of highly sought styles of tobacco. Through research, development, innovation and technology, the country’s tobacco industry has been transformed to what it is today.”

Dr Masuka said many countries in Africa too, have unique climates that impart characteristic styles of Virginia, barley, oriental and other types of tobacco.

“So, I don’t see competition between and among African countries, but collectively we can become a trusted source of all tobacco varieties. Africa contributed 400 million kilograms last year with Zimbabwe being the lead producer of Virginia in the continent with a record production of 296 million kilogrammes,” he added.

As a result of the El Nino induced drought the 2023/24 tobacco production season is expected to result in a 20 percent drop in production to between 230 to 240 million kilogrammes.

“With climate change, the southern Africa region is predicted to become drier in the decades ahead so tobacco, which is generally more drought tolerant than the staple maize crop, will contribute indirectly to food security through the provision of income to households which can be redeployed for food purchase,” the Minister said.

The future of the tobacco industry was assured as a significant number of the farmers are youth, at 43 percent, and women at 28 percent with the youth participation in tobacco production increasing by seven percent between 2022 and 2023. 

Dr Masuka said the Expo provided an opportunity to exchange ideas, network, explore as well as cultivate mutually beneficial business relationships. 

He said Zimbabwe was “Open for Business” and called on all participants to enjoy the hospitality of the country by sampling the many cuisines and destinations that it offers.

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