Senior Business Reporter
THE tobacco industry has the potential to generate foreign exchange of up to $3 billion annually if it is integrated under the Government’s Command Agriculture model, an official said.
Last year, Zimbabwe realised $933.3 million from tobacco exports with latest statistics from the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) indicating that between January and November 22 this year exports from the golden leaf raked in $827.4 million. In the corresponding period in 2015, flue-cured tobacco exports raked in $771.8 million.
Speaking in Parliament last week, Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe legislator, Mr Simbaneuta Mudarikwa said:
“We must also move into Command Tobacco because it gives this country foreign currency. As long as we do not have foreign currency, we would be wasting our time. If we take $500 million and put it into tobacco and export, next year things will not be same.
“The production of tobacco must go up every year. We can easily have a $2 billion or $3 billion tobacco industry if we support it.”
The legislator said it was imperative for the Government to support tobacco farming starting from the training of the farmers and protecting the tobacco farmers from unscrupulous dealers that were always at the auction floors.
“If you go there, you find all the makoronyeras (unscrupulous dealers). They moved from Mbare and they are now based at the tobacco floors. So, tobacco farmers must be protected,” said Mr Mudarikwa.
The Government introduced Command Agriculture in the 2016/17 agricultural season with a view to boost national grain requirement. In the 2016/17 agriculture season, Zimbabwe surpassed the annual national grain requirement of 1.5 million tonnes to about 2.2 million tonnes guaranteeing the country food self-sufficiency for the first time in many years.
The Government has also announced that the Command Agriculture initiative was being extended to the livestock sector.
“We must have Command Agriculture on small grains which are drought resistant. When we have Command Agriculture for small grains, we must then look at the value chain. We have produced rapoko, what is the next product – we meal the rapoko,” he said.