Tobacco, a crop that accounts for over 90% of Zambia’s entire output, has experienced a 20% decline in production. The Tobacco Board of Zambia-TBZ acknowledged this, revealing that tobacco production for the year 2021/2022 had decreased.
In an interview, TBZ Chief Executive Officer-CEO James Kasongo stated that this year’s tobacco production is estimated to be around 37 million kgs (37,000 tons), down from over 45,000 tons the previous year.
The decline in production, according to Kasongo, can be due to bad weather conditions in important tobacco-producing areas. Tobacco production grew by roughly half a million kilograms (Kgs) (30,000 tons) from the 2019/2020 agricultural season to 45,000 tons in the 2020/2021 season.
Kasongo said there was a lot of private sector investment in tobacco in 2020 which had not been the case in 2021. He added that the industry had new entrants in 2020 who invested heavily in terms of promoting out-grower tobacco production at a community level and this resulted in the increased number of tobacco growers in response to the demand.
He explained that the conducive environment and weather also made it possible for farmers to increase production and the new Act that the Ministry of Agriculture was working on will only complement and help realise the country’s vision of improving the tobacco industry.
The TBZ CEO also attributed the increase in tobacco products to the high demand on the international market adding that the increase in production would earn the country the much-needed foreign exchange as the tobacco produced in Zambia is mostly destined for the export market.
He noted that 90% of the tobacco produced in Zambia is exported, which means that export prices will be able to support local farmers to get better prices adding that the quality of tobacco produced in 2021 is also very good, meaning that farmers got better prices after its graded.
“Before, it was very difficult for you to trace tobacco from a farmer up to the market and that way Zambia was sometimes losing tobacco to neighbouring countries through unofficial vending and site selling, but now, we have put in place an electronic system that can trace a farmer from production to marketing. The booking system is also electronic meaning, whatever crop of tobacco is produced in Zambia is not pilfered out to other countries”, he said.
Kasongo said there is a need to encourage local farmers to enter into irrigated tobacco growing which will help them escape the effects of adverse weather in case there is a drought as well as increase productivity. Zambia still remains behind in tobacco production even by its Neighbours such as Malawi and Zimbabwe.