ARTHUR MWANSA, Lusaka
MINISTER of Agriculture Dora Siliya says the country is likely to lose about US$100 million in export earnings due to the drastic reduction in tobacco production from 45 million kilogrammes in 2013 to 22 million kilogrammes in 2017.
Ms Siliya said Government remains resolute to turn around the situation through the promotion and development of policies that will encourage investment in the tobacco sub-sector.
She said the sector employs about 450,000 people directly or indirectly countrywide.
Ms Siliya said this in a speech read for her by Ministry of Agriculture permanent secretary Julius Shawa yesterday during the opening of the 53rd Tobacco Association of Zambia (TAZ) annual congress.
She said the major challenge the tobacco sub-sector has been experiencing is the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) which aims at reducing tobacco consumption globally.
“The anti-tobacco campaigns being championed by the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control have evidently led to corresponding reduction in production and sponsorship of tobacco,” Ms Siliya said.
Ms Siliya said tobacco remains one of the key strategic crops, whose relevance to Zambia’s social and economic growth cannot be overemphasised.
“If properly harnessed, we can grow our economy and improve the livelihoods of our brothers and sisters whose lives depend on the proceeds from tobacco. It is a well-known fact that tobacco farmers also grow food crops such as maize, soya beans, and groundnuts using inputs obtained on loans for tobacco growing,” Ms Siliya said.
She said Government will ensure the benefits that tobacco gives to farmers, value chain stakeholders and the nation at large are not compromised.
She said Zambia has the potential of becoming a net exporter of a variety of agricultural products as evidenced by the volumes of other crops such as maize and seed that have been exported to other countries in recent years.
And TAZ president Ant Ford said reduced crop financing and increased farmer debt on the local and international front have contributed to the reduction in tobacco production.
British American Tobacco (BAT) security and brand enforcement manager Milupi Nyambe said about 500 jobs will be created for the locals during the construction phase of the US$25 million BAT factory at the Lusaka South Multi Facility Economic Zone (LSMFEZ).