Africa urged to reap more benefits from global tobacco trade-Xinhua

Africa urged to reap more benefits from global tobacco trade

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2024-05-15 23:10:15

HARARE, May 15 (Xinhua) -- The inaugural World Tobacco Africa Conference and Expo kicked off on Wednesday in Harare, Zimbabwe's capital, amid calls for Africa to boost value addition and reap more dividends from the growth in global tobacco trade.

Tobacco is an important socio-economic contributor, accounting for up to 90 percent of exports in some African countries and underlying Africa's importance and increasing contribution to the global tobacco market, Anxious Masuka, Zimbabwean minister of lands, agriculture, fisheries, water and rural development, said while opening the expo.

"Growth in the global tobacco trade will be sustained, and by 2028, the industry should be worth one trillion U.S. dollars. Africa must aim to get a fair share of this growth," Masuka said.

Zimbabwe is the lead producer of highly flavored Virginia tobacco in Africa and the fifth-largest producer in the world. According to industry figures, the country produced a record 296 million kg of tobacco leaf last year.

In Zimbabwe, tobacco looms large among the country's main exports, and is the largest agricultural export product, contributing between 1 and 1.5 billion U.S. dollars annually, Masuka said, adding that the bulk of the crop is produced by small-holder farmers and sustains about 10 percent of the country's population, mainly women and the youth.

"As a smallholder crop, tobacco production in many African countries directly and indirectly contributes to the livelihoods of millions of people. With climate change, the southern African region is predicted to become drier in the decades ahead, so tobacco, which is generally more drought tolerant than the staple maize crop, will contribute indirectly to food security through the provision of income to households, which can be redeployed for food purchase," Masuka said.

Through the Tobacco Value Chain Transformation Plan launched in 2021, Zimbabwe is aiming to transform its tobacco industry from the current 1-billion-dollar industry into a 5-billion-dollar industry by 2025.

The plan focuses on increasing annual production to 300 million kg, attending to sustainability, traceability, and viability issues through increased value addition, beneficiation, and localization of tobacco production financing.

"Much has been achieved, but much more needs to be done," the minister said.

The two-day conference, alongside an exhibition of suppliers to the industry, brought together exhibitors and key stakeholders from the tobacco industry to share knowledge, exchange ideas, forge new partnerships, and showcase innovations to shape the future of the tobacco sector in Africa and beyond.