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State to develop, safeguard tobacco, says Siliya

GOVERNMENT has pledged its commitment to come up with laws and regulations that aim to safeguard and develop the tobacco in the country.
Minister of Agriculture Dora Siliya said tobacco is an important part of the agriculture sector that is one of the best paying cash crops in Zambia, hence the need to develop the sub-sector.
Ms Siliya said during the commemoration of the first World Tobacco Growers’ Day on Friday that Government is committed to supporting and protecting the agriculture sector as well as tobacco growers as they are critical in contributing to economic development.
“As Government, we appreciate the economic value which comes with growing tobacco. A significant number of people are dependent on tobacco for their livelihood.
“This makes tobacco a strategic cash crop for our economy. And as Government, we will ensure that benefits that come from growing this crop are not ignored by the development of laws that hinder the growth of the sub-sector and, consequently, the industry as a whole,” she said.
Earlier, Tobacco Board of Zambia (TBZ) chairperson Rhidah Mung’omba said the tobacco sub-sector has been experiencing a number of challenges in the last three years leading to a drop in output from 45 million tonnes in 2013 to a projected 23 million during the current marketing seasons.
Mr Mungomba said like in most growing economies, agriculture has been identified as Zambia’s next ‘copper’ as it is destined to be the next highest foreign exchange earner through the export of crops grown locally to the sub-region and the international market.
“As decision-makers, our interest is to see the sub-sector grow so as to contribute to the economic welfare of Zambians in a bid to assist Government in its call to diversify the economy away from over-dependence on copper,” he said.
At the same event, Tobacco Association of Zambia president Anthony Ford said tobacco growers wish to collectively demand from Government a sustainable future in the face of uncertainties engulfing the tobacco market as a result of a steep decline in demand.
Currently, there are no viable alternative options to ensure the subsistence of tobacco growing communities.