Tobacco transformation plan crafted

Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Dr Jenfan Muswere

WITH tobacco farmers now producing close to 300 million kg, the 2025 target, the stress in the tobacco transformation plan is on converting tobacco into a US$5 billion industry through exports of tobacco value-added products.

There is an ongoing construction of a new cigarette manufacturing plant and cut rag processing factories aimed at increasing the processing capacity by 50 percent in the first half of next year. Cut rag is tobacco processed and finely cut for use in cigarettes.

Speaking after yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Dr Jenfan Muswere said the tobacco transformation plan was presented to Cabinet by Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister Dr Anxious Masuka.

“There has been an increase in volume as a result of post-harvest loss reduction and yield increase. During the 2022/23 season a record 296,1 million kilogrammes of tobacco, worth US$896 million was produced.

“Of this production, A1 and A2 farmers contributed 153 320 472kg and US$480 548 375 of total production, being 52 percent and 54 percent the value respectively, attesting to the success of land reform.

“The Tobacco Industry Marketing Board introduced the compliance administration framework in 2022 to ensure that farmers received a minimum input package from contractors. Additionally, Statutory Instrument 77 of 2022 was introduced in 2022 to criminalise side-marketing of crops.

“Regarding post-harvest loss reduction, there are ongoing farmer field days, and training, on harvesting, curing, storage and use of more fuel-efficient barns, to reduce losses from 15 percent to 10 percent.

“The Tobacco Research Board developed a fuel-efficient ‘Rocket Barn’ and ‘the Kutsaga Counter Current 1 Barn’ which reduced firewood use by 50 percent. Research on alternative fuel types is ongoing at the TRB.

“The tobacco industry merchants have a voluntary levy collected under the auspices of the Sustainable Afforestation Association, which commenced planting eucalyptus trees in 2014.

“There is a one percent increase in the tobacco seed sold this season and a three percent increase in area planted to irrigated tobacco compared to the previous year,” said Minister Muswere.

He said to accelerate localisation of tobacco funding to 70 percent of the cost of production by 2025, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe recently removed the requirement compelling tobacco merchants to source offshore financing to fund production and for buying green leaf from farmers.

To increase the production of alternative crops such as horticulture and hemp, and increase their contribution to the farmers’ income to 25 percent by 2025, TIMB is now offering Global Gap Consultancy services to enable tobacco farmers to access global export markets for horticultural crops.

Also, agronomic evaluation of imported industrial hemp varieties by the Tobacco Research Board had now been advanced to multilocation trials.

So far this year 145 million kg of tobacco have been exported at an average price of US$4,97/kg, compared to 122 million kg at US$4,54/kg this time last year, said Minister Muswere.

“There are opportunities to increase the level of value addition and beneficiation of tobacco into cut rag and cigarette production from two percent of tobacco produced to 30 percent.

“The construction of a new cigarette manufacturing plant and cut rag processing factories is underway and this will result in an increase in processing capacity by 50 percent in the first half of 2024,” said the Minister.

Grain Marketing Board maize stocks as of Sunday stood at 205 699 tonnes, while traditional grains stood at 48 103 tonnes and total maize and traditional grains stocks was at 253 802 tonnes.

He said the wheat stocks as of Sunday stood at 137 586 tonnes, and the area planted for winter wheat is 90 192 hectares, with an estimated harvest of 440 844 tonnes.

Minister Muswere said wheat harvesting has commenced with some 3 681 hectares harvested to date and Government has already announced a marketing price.

Herald

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