Nkeyema district in the Western Province of Zambia produced more than 4,000 tons of tobacco worth over US$5 million this year.
Nkeyema district commissioner Fridah Luhila made the disclosure on the occasion to mark the official opening of the 2015 national tobacco marketing season at the Japan Tobacco International (JTI) Rosewood Sales Floors in Nkeyema yesterday. In a speech read on her behalf by Nkeyema district administrative officer, Patrick Mweemba, Mrs Luhila said over 2,700 hectares of tobacco was cultivated resulting in a huge injection of money into the district’s economic lifeline.
According to the agriculture minister, Given Lubinda, a total of 33,500 metric tons of tobacco valued at approximately US$190.7 million was produced in the country last year. It is, however, projected that this year there will be a slight reduction in tobacco production to about 27,000 metric tons valued at US$155 million.
The tobacco industry plays an important role in the nation’s economy and the livelihoods of rural farmers as it employs over 450,000 people directly countrywide.
Lubinda said the policy and legislative reforms that government has embarked on will contribute to the desired growth of the tobacco industry in Zambia, adding that, increased productivity and enhanced value addition to tobacco is the only avenue through which to increase earnings.
He also said that only 13% of small-scale farmers have access to credit and commended the tobacco industry for helping small-scale farmers to access finance and credit facilities through the out-grower schemes.
The agriculture minister insisted that the government expects that the floor price for tobacco in 2015 will be determined in a transparent and participatory manner with all players in the industry.
Tobacco Board of Zambia (TBZ) board secretary, Samson Muyembe, urged tobacco farmers to cooperate with their sponsors by repaying loans, avoiding side-trading and keeping away from illicit trade.
Muyembe said the tobacco industry world-over has marketing challenges arising from over production and over supply and TBZ with its stakeholders should strategically put in place a sustainable tobacco marketing system which will facilitate a fair price for the grower and merchant.
At the same event, Western Tobacco Leaf Association chairperson, Richard Kamocha, said there is need to train farmers in tobacco production as tobacco grading comes with the good grading of the crop.
Kamocha thanked the industry stakeholders for the continued support to farmers and called on government to introduce an initiative such as the Farmer Input Support Program (FISP) for tobacco farmers in the country.