Zambia’s tobacco production has more than doubled in the last year, boosted by the arrival of farmers fleeing land reforms in Zimbabwe.
Tobacco Association of Zambia (TAZ) executive director John Downie says Zambia’s tobacco production rose to 7.2mn kg in 2003 from 3mn in 2002, largely thanks to white Zimbabwean farmers who have resettled in Zambia following land redistribution in their homeland.
“A lot of the expansion is a result of the new farmers… the new techniques from the newcomers have been a wake-up call for our members to improve their farming techniques and increase production,” Downie says.
This is exciting as the industry is recording rapid growth.
Downie says 75 former Zimbabwe tobacco farmers and their managers had settled in southern and central parts of the country following Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s controversial policy of seizing white-owned farms to give to landless blacks.
Downie says the TAZ was helping the newly-arrived farmers to settle quickly and get on with production.
“The shortfall in Zimbabwe tobacco production, which fell to below 100mn kg in 2003 from about 240mn kg before the land reforms, has worked to our benefit as our production has been rising faster,” Downie adds.
The bulk of Zambia’s virginia and burley tobacco is bought by Altria Group Inc unit Philip Morris, British American Tobacco and Universal Leaf Tobacco Co.
Downie says the gross value of the 7.2mn kg of tobacco produced in 2003 was US$12.5mn, adding that 2004 should see production rise to 15mn kg worth around US$27mn. Only US$5.2mn was earned from tobacco sales in 2000.
He adds that Zambia could earn well over US$51mn in 2005 from tobacco sales as production kept increasing rapidly, although he did not give specific targets.