TOBACCO production is expected to drop by about 7 million kilogrammes this year due to poor rains, says Tobacco Board of Zambia (TBZ) operations manager Wasikwera Mashoko.
Mr Mashoko said the 2015 tobacco marketing season was expected to record a reduction of 7 million kilogrammes from 35 million kilogrammes achieved last year to 27.8 million kilogrammes due to poor rainfall pattern.
In an interview Mr Mashoko said in the last season, Zambia managed to produce all three major types of tobacco, namely Barley, Virginia and dark fiber.
“We are expecting a reduction in the 2015 marketing season compared to last season because apart from poor rains many farmers fell out due to marketing problems,” he said
“We are anticipating 27.8 million kilograms as compared to 35 million farmed in the last season. As TBZ we insist on registration so that we know the volumes that are coming through so that we can give these figures to tobacco buyers,” he said.
He said one challenge faced by tobacco farmers was the lack of buyers.
“We need to engage participants and campaign aggressively so that we have more players and reduce competition, the higher the producer prices the more income for the farmers,” he said.
And Mr Mashoko said tobacco brought a lot of money to Zambia and contributed immensely to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and the general growth of the economy.
(The gross domestic product (GDP) is one of the primary indicators used to gauge the health of a country’s economy. It represents the total dollar value of all goods and services produced over a specific time period)
Meanwhile, Mr Mashoko said tobacco could only cause cancer if taken uncontrollably and excessively.
He was reacting to the negative perception by some sections of the public that tobacco was harmful to human health.
“There are so many harmful things in life and tobacco is just one of the things. When taken excessively for sure there is cancer and all that but when controlled it’s fine and it’s a business on the other hand, it’s a green gold,” he said.
He said all the tobacco produced in Zambia was mainly for export which he said contributed to the foreign exchange earning hence contributing to the growth of the economy.
Mr Mashoko said Zambia exported tobacco to the United Kingdom, United States of America and China adding that the upcoming and biggest market is the Chinese because of its population.”
“So we look at it as a business, most of the tobacco produced go to UK, USA and the market which is coming on the scene with a bang is the Chinese market where consumption is high because of the big population,” he said.
Mr Mashoko observed that after maize, tobacco was an option and it was important for the country to diversify to tobacco production.
“It can earn up to K23. 25 million from one hectare,” he said