Each year, the World Health Organization (WHO) holds World No Tobacco Day on May 31 with the goal to spread awareness about the risks of tobacco use.
Zimbabwe which is among the tobacco-growing countries has become increasingly concerned about the economic challenges that may be encountered since the day has become a common fixture.
In an interview with BusinessMail, Casper Mlambo Agricultural Manager of Zimbabwe Tobacco Association (ZTA), an alliance that represents the interests of local producers, said the global anti-tobacco drive, which seeks to scale back the consumption of tobacco, presents a real threat to the industry going forward.
“The anti -tobacco lobby will have a huge impact on the Zimbabwe economy because tobacco is a golden leaf and a foreign currency booster,” Mlambo said.
The championing of the anti-smoking by WHO poses a negative impact on the demand for tobacco globally hence, there may be need to explore alternatives for tobacco-dependent economies.
“The demand is there because there are still a lot of smokers in China as an example but sometimes it fluctuates depending on production. So it’s critical to maintain optimum production not over produce,” Mlambo said.
Mlambo holds the notion that producing one or two crops as complete substitutes for tobacco is not realistic at this point in time and no single crop is likely to play the same important and widespread role as tobacco does at the present.
“It is difficult to shift on alternative crops because tobacco is grown in sandy loamy soils marginal areas if I can put it that way. Not too many crops do well in such conditions.
“Therefore, they might be no an exit strategy that we may prescribe to tobacco farmers,” Mlambo said.
Zimbabwe which is among the major producers of tobacco globally, has been progressively conflicted by the need to fight non-communicable disease caused by smoking and keeping the lucrative industry going.
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