By Trevor Makonyonga
Government has moved towards the transformation of the tobacco value chain under the banner Tobacco Value Chain Transformation Plan.
The plan aims at transforming the tobacco value into a US$5 billion industry by 2025 through localisation of tobacco financing, increased production and productivity, value addition and beneficiation, and exports of cigarettes.
The initiatives are expected to contribute significantly to Gross Domestic Product growth, foreign currency generation and employment creation, thereby raising household incomes in pursuit of Vision 2030.
The Minister of Information and publicity, Monica Mutsvangwa, laid out the strategic objectives of the Plan.
She said that the plan seeks to, “To localise the funding of tobacco to complement external funders; to raise tobacco production and productivity from 262 million kilogrammes to 300 million kilogrammes by 2025; to diversify and increase the production of alternative crops such as medicinal cannabis and increase their contribution to the farmers’ incomes to 25% by 2025; to increase the level of value addition and beneficiation of tobacco from 2% of total tobacco produced to 30% in order to increase exports of cigarettes; and to create an enabling environment that incentivizes investors to set up shop in the country instead of exporting raw or semi processed tobacco.”
Mutsvangwa also said that the immediate objective is to increase tobacco production and productivity through increasing the yield per unit, increasing the area under crop, and minimizing losses.
Meanwhile, the Tobacco Research Board is already conducting research on alternate crops such as Chia, Industrial Hemp and Sesame, as well as other types of tobacco such as Shisha, which is very popular in the Middle East. Research is also being conducted into the extraction of high-value compounds from tobacco, such as nicotine, solanesol and edible oil.
“Preliminary studies have already been done on the extraction of tobacco edible oil and identified varieties that could be used for oil extraction. All these efforts are meant to increase the income that accrues directly to the farmer.”