By Buumba Chimbulu
TOBACCO farmers are now assured of a ready local market following the commissioning of an industrial complex in Lusaka which will add value to the green leaf that is currently exported with no value addition.
The US$80 million tobacco industrial complex which was launched this week by Roland Imperial Tobacco Limited (RITCO) currently produces tobacco by way of an outgrower scheme.
RITCO chairperson, Ephraim Mwenda, said the complex would offer a ready market for tobacco farmers while supporting more merchants support the Zambian farmers through outgrower schemes or contract farming. “This company currently produces tobacco in Zambia by way of an outgrower scheme and is the leading producer in Zimbabwe. Zambia will see a growth in green leaf production, which has been on the decline since 2012,” he said.
Dr. Mwenda observed that Zambia had in the recent times seen a decline in the volume of tobacco growing due to taxation, Value Added Tax (VAT), and lack of tobacco processing infrastructure.
He, however, said more tobacco merchants would be seen on the market following Government’s amendments to the VAT on tobacco.
According to Dr. Mwenda, tobacco production was a lucrative investment opportunity in Zambia because it was 7.5 times more profitable per hectare than maize and 14 times profitable than cotton.
Dr. Mwenda explained that tobacco had potential to contribute to the growth of the economy through employment, wealth creation and foreign exchange earnings.
“Zambia offers a geographically, strategic position, for exports to its eight neighbouring countries and beyond. The Southern Africa Development Community and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa markets,” Dr. Mwenda said.