Posted on Monday, 01 October 2012 11:42

Zimbabwe: Millions of jobs at risk as tobacco sector struggles

About four million Zimbabweans could be directly and indirectly affected by recommendations to phase out tobacco production/Photo©ReutersUp to one million jobs could be lost in Zimbabwe's tobacco sectors, as an international lobby to ban the crop gathers momentum.


Sales of the golden leaf were on the rebound after years of a downturn following the Zimbabwe's land reform, now fears are rising that the ban could have negative effects on the country's staggering economy.

In the last marketing season this year, tobacco sales generated $527 million from the sale of 144 million kilogrammes and exports are expected to generate $700 million.

In November, the World Health Organisation Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC), will meet for the fifth session of the Conference of Parties in Seoul, South Korea to discuss "economically sustainable alternatives to growing tobacco"

Zimbabwe has not yet ratified the FCTC, which means that it cannot add its voice to the current processes that are likely to shake the core of the local economy.

Local experts say about four million local people will be directly and indirectly affected by the adoption of new recommendations to phase out the production of tobacco.

In a report, FCTC says tobacco is a cash crop that active industry intervention has made attractive to farmers. It is the largest non-food crop by monetary value in the world.

However, several countries are taking steps to find alternatives to tobacco growing.

"Parties should protect the formulation and implementation of public health policies for tobacco control from the tobacco industry to the greatest extent possible.

"The tobacco industry should be held responsible for the health and environmental harms related to tobacco growing and all activities connected with tobacco growing and the supply chain, and for ensuring respect for human rights for those working in connection with tobacco growing and the supply chain" reads part of the report.

However, for Zimbabwe this could spell doom for an economy that is still struggling to recover.

There are more than 15 000 small-scale farmers and 300 large-scale farmers growing the crop, with over 12 companies.

Zimbabwe Tobacco Association chief executive officer, Rodney Ambrose, said if the recommendations that have been made are adopted, more than four million people could be affected.

"Close to 30 million tobacco farmers worldwide will be affected if these recommendations are adopted, this will include our 80,000 tobacco farmers in Zimbabwe and all the related industries.

"These industries include transporters, auction and buying companies, research stations, processors, agro-chemical and fertiliser companies, farm equipment companies, fuel companies, coal mining, even down to the informal trader or vendor outside the tobacco floors who relies on income from the sale of tobacco by farmers," he said.

Ambrose said a recent study shows at least four million people in Zimbabwe are dependent on tobacco production.

"Tobacco contributes significantly to total agriculture earnings and national GDP," he said.

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