Indigenous tobacco companies the mainstay of the local industry

By Owen Mandovha

THE participation of emerging indigenous contracting companies in the tobacco industry has contributed to the rebound and transformation of the multi-billion dollar industry that has benefited thousands of farmers and the economy at large.

Over the years, black-owned companies have become the mainstay of supporting farmers with inputs and technical assistance.

Speaking to ZBC News, Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) spokesperson, Ms Chelisani Moyo said the role of local black-owned companies cannot be underestimated in the industry’s recovery and growth.

“We have seen a rise in tobacco contracting companies over the last couple of years and these have supported and funded black farmers, who ordinarily lack the resources to undertake tobacco farming. What is exciting is that unlike in the past, some of them have established export linkages in global markets, on top of establishing local processing plants to value add the tobacco,” she said.

Farmers who grow the golden leaf under contract by a local indigenous company are excited about their fortunes, compared to previous schemes operated by big multinational tobacco firms.

“We started off as workers on farms owned by whites and we later became land owners. Our farming was under contract through the traditional tobacco merchants. However, we changed to local tobacco, which has assisted us with inputs and the prices they are giving us are very competitive,” said Mr Wickson Kalanje, a tobacco farmer.

“My life has been transformed by the company that we are contracted because it is owned by people who also used to grow tobacco, who understand our challenges. So, the prices that we get are good. I have developed myself by building a house and buying cars and I have everything to show for what I have toiled for on the land,” added another farmer, Mr James Nyambudu.

Indigenous Tobacco Company Director Tennyson Hwandi told ZBC News that they exported processed tobacco to the tune of 22 million kilogrammes last year and are importing more equipment to improve their processing capacity.

“Our company has contracted over 18 000 farmers this year alone and last year we exported over 22 million kilogrammes of processed tobacco. Our advantage is that we get full value for our exports, which enables us to pay the farmer a competitive price and also support them with enough inputs. We are in the process of importing another plant to value add tobacco on top of our existing plant in Rusape,” said Hwandi.

Last year, government adopted the Tobacco Industry Value Chain Transformation Strategy that seeks to localise tobacco funding and increase production to 300 million kilogrammes, hence the full participation of local companies to ensure the industry significantly contributes to the attainment of an upper middle income society by 2030.