The tobacco industry in Zambia is robust as demonstrated by its current contribution to exports, a tobacco farmer has said.
Mr Ganidzani Banda of Chipata district has said the tobacco industry was one of the sectors that provided great potential in the agricultural sector owing to its large production in recent years.
He said the industry in Zambia was robust and through its contribution, demonstrated that private sector engagement was critical for its success.
Mr Banda said tobacco continued to be one of the most important cash crops in Zambia which contributed greatly to the country’s economic development by empowering local people.
He said the growth in agriculture over the years had been affected by inadequate access to productive assets such as high quality agricultural inputs as well as high transport costs.
Mr Banda said the establishment of the Zambia’s first primary tobacco processing plant to manufacture cigarettes would encourage the growth of the industry as most of the farmers would engage in tobacco farming.
The primary processing plant would incorporate a threshing process and a process to produce what is known as cut rag that would then be fed into the cigarette making machinery for cigarettes production.
Mr Banda said such investments would give hope to tobacco farmers, adding that more production would be expected. In 2011-12 seasons, tobacco production on 36, 000 hectares of land created direct employment to 45,000 people with 41,394 tonnes of leaf worth $126 million produced.
And Roland Imperial Tobacco Company, the only cigarette manufacturing plant in Zambia, planned to support small-scale farmers throughout-grower schemes and set up its own tobacco farms in joint ventures.
The company allocated about US$20 million in primary tobacco processing plant that would be set up in the Lusaka South Multi Facility Economic Zone (LS-MFEZ) following the signing of a lease agreement with the LS-MFEZ.