By Lenin Ndebele
THERE WAS revived interest from South Africa during this year’s tobacco selling season in Zimbabwe, with the largest regional economy beating its 2015 numbers.
Figures released by the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board of Zimbabwe indicate that the biggest regional market for Zimbabwean tobacco was ranked second globally behind the leading nation, China, up from last year’s third when Belgium was the second biggest buyer.
South Africa offered better prices from last year’s US$2.89 per kg to US$2.92 in the process increasing their buying from 12 million kilograms to 19 million kilograms in the process knocking Belgium off second position.
As good as it might sound for Zimbabwe’s economy, whose tobacco industry is one of the indicators of the successes of the land reform programme, there is reduced interest from countries such as Namibia, Lesotho, and Botswana.
In keeping up with their Tobacco Products Control Act of 2010, Namibia has not been the biggest fan of tobacco.
This year, buyers from Namibia snapped up a mere 11,000 kg worth only US$49,000 from Zimbabwe’s tobacco auction floors.
In September, The Zambezi Communal Land Board rejected an application by a Chinese majority owned company, Namibia Oriental Tobacco, to set up a 10,000 hectare tobacco plantation near Katima Mulilo.
Instead, the board only gave the company permission to plant maize, a move that was hailed by the Conference of the Parties (COP) – a World Health Organization governing body.
In Botswana, last week, the Ministry of Health and Wellness’ permanent secretary Shenaaz El Halabi, speaking during a public seminar at the University of Botswana, warned that the upcoming legislation on tobacco control would be “aggressive to offenders”.