THE Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (Timb) says the country will continue growing the golden leaf despite intense lobbying to curb tobacco growing and smoking.
BY MOSES CHIBAYA
“At the moment tobacco is still a legal product. We are still able to grow it legally and market it legally,” Timb chief executive officer Andrew Matibiri told Standardbusiness.
The United Nations in 2005 came up with a global treaty, Fra-mework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), pleading with all countries to join the landmark agreement that seeks to curb tobacco growing and consumption, especially among children.
Zimbabwe bagged US$771 million from tobacco sales in 2012 at an average price of US$5,94 per kg, the highest annual export price for the commodity since the Zimbabwean economy dollarised in 2009, according to experts.
While Zimbabwe produced and sold 145 million kg of tobacco last year, increased take-up of tobacco growing by farmers in the country is expected to push up this year’s output to 170 million kg.
But all this could be under threat as there is mounting pressure from a world-wide lobby to curb tobacco growing, with the United Nations saying tobacco kills six million each year.
Moreover, it is projected that the world suffers a US$200 billion annual loss from treatment of tobacco-related illnesses as well as in lost productivity.
Matibiri said about 77 910 hectares of land has been put under tobacco this year, a massive 38% jump from the 56 377 hectares grown last season.
About 66 000 growers have registered and it is expected that this number would increase.
Matibiri said tobacco production is a source of earnings for the economy and many households throughout the country but noted that the anti-smoking lobby had been intensifying.
The lobbying to control tobacco growing requires parties to restrict tobacco advertising, sponsorship and promotion, set new labelling and clean indoor air controls and strengthen laws against tobacco smuggling. It needed ratification by 40 countries to enter into force and 57, representing 2,3 billion people have so far ratified.
Countries that are party to the treaty are expected to translate its general provisions into national laws and regulations. They will have, for example, three years to ensure that tobacco packaging has strong health warnings, and five years to establish comprehensive advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
“For certain countries, tobacco is very important and they must not be disturbed too much and for as long as there is no alternative to tobacco, tobacco will remain a legal commodity,” Matibiri said.