‘Tobacco can strengthen local currency’

Tobacco farming.

ZAMBIA’s tobacco sector has the potential to increase production levels and earn the country the much needed foreign exchange to help strengthen the local currency.
Last week, the Kwacha suffered a setback as demand for the United States dollar characterised the foreign exchange market putting pressure on it.
Tobacco Association of Zambia (TAZ) president Antony Ford said the sector’s export earnings have steadily increased from about US$49.5 million in 2007 to over US$100 million in 2014.
Mr Ford said currently, Zambia’s tobacco subsector produces about 24,000 to 30,000 tonnes annually and provides a livelihood to over 20,000 growers as well as their dependents.
“As a country, we can do more to increase production levels, employment and export earnings .However ,it is important that we work as team under the International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA) and be able to speak with one voice against various forces affecting the industry,” he said at the ITGA regional meeting on Tuesday.
He said the meeting will discuss issues that find the best way forward on various challenges affecting the sector both local and international.
He said the resolutions from the meeting will contribute to the growth of the sector and its economic contribution to various countries in attendance.
The meeting is being attended by delegates from South Africa, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Uganda and Geneva.
Mr Ford said the sector also significantly contributes to Zambia’s gross domestic product at about two percent.
He said the subsector creates employment for over 450,000 people through its value chain and by 2015, about 26,000 growers registered by the Tobacco Board of Zambia of which 98 percent are small-scale farmers.

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