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World Tobacco Africa Conference kicks off

World Tobacco Africa Conference kicks off

Story by Owen Mandovha, Business Reporter

ZIMBABWE’S high-quality brand of tobacco can help to leapfrog the country’s economy through exporting the golden leaf in processed form.

Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries Water and Rural Development Minister Dr Anxious Masuka says only 2% of Zimbabwe’s exported tobacco is processed while the country is producing 6% of global output hence the country is not maximising export earnings.

Dr Masuka was speaking on the sidelines of the World Tobacco Africa Conference which kicked off this Wednesday in Harare.

“Zimbabwe produces 6% of the world’s output of tobacco in an industry that earned US$921 billion last year. As a country we earned US$1.5 billion from exports last year, this doesn’t tally with our level of global production hence the need to enhance value addition,” he said.

Local firms have vowed to accelerate processing and expand output.

“As Pacific Cigarettes, we have responded to the need to value add tobacco and has developed strong processing capacity which includes making cigarettes for the local Chinese community in Zimbabwe,” said one of the exhibitors.

Another added, “As a contractor, we embrace the call by Government to increase exports of processed tobacco and this conference has provided a platform to link with markets where we can sell our tobacco.”

“This Conference has been helpful in linking our company to the export markets as there are buyers from across the world as we strive to create a 5 billion dollar industry,” another exhibitor noted.

United States and Dubai-based foreign delegates concur Zimbabwe’s tobacco is the most sought-after, hence their presence at the conference.

“I operate a manufacturing plant in the US and it’s my first time here in Zimbabwe. I’m quite impressed by the level of development of the local industry and hope to create synergies,” said one of the foreign delegates.

Another added, “I’m into packaging and have come here to tap into opportunities in Zimbabwe.”

The Conference continues on Day 2 this Thursday and some of the issues under discussion include the impact of the World Health Organisation regulations on the tobacco industry and the rising cases of illicit trade of tobacco.

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