Zimbabwe hosts first ever Africa Tobacco Expo


Zimbabwe recently hosted the World Tobacco Africa exhibition and conference in Harare, marking the first of its kind on the African continent. This event underscored Zimbabwe's status as the premier tobacco-producing country in Africa, ranking as the fifth largest tobacco producer globally.

Officially opening the two-day conference, the Honourable Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, Dr Anxious Masuka, acknowledged this, calling it “testament to Zimbabwe’s tobacco production progress and prowess on the African continent”.

TIMB chairman, Patrick Devenish, alongside Minister of Agriculture, Dr Anxious Masuka, touring the expo
TIMB chairman, Patrick Devenish, alongside Minister of Agriculture, Dr Anxious Masuka, touring the expo

“This exposition and conference are also a recognition of Africa’s important and increasing contribution to the global tobacco market.” The event brought together key stakeholders, including farmers, researchers, policymakers and industry leaders.

“With climate change, the Southern Africa region is predicted to become drier in the decades ahead, so tobacco which is generally more drought tolerant than the staple maize crop. As such, it will contribute indirectly to food security through the provision for of income to households which can be redeployed for food purchase, according to the Minister.

Tobacco production in Zimbabwe

The significance of tobacco production to the Zimbabwean economy cannot be overstated. In the previous year, Zimbabwe achieved a record-breaking 296 million kg crop yield.

The history of commercial Virginia tobacco farming in Zimbabwe traces back to the 1890s when the Jesuits at Shawasha Mission, located just outside Harare, initiated cultivation.

Today, tobacco production in Zimbabwe plays a vital role in the country's export sector, contributing between USD 1 to 1.5 billion to annual export revenue. Last year, Zimbabwean tobacco found its way to almost 60 destinations worldwide, making it the most widely traded Zimbabwean product globally.

The biggest export destination for our tobacco is the Far East (47 per cent of our exports). Of this, China takes 69 per cent.

Small-scale tobacco farming significantly impacts the livelihoods of around 137,000 registered growers for the current marketing season. It is noteworthy that smallholder tobacco production accounts for almost three-quarters of the total national yield. Over 160,000 households are directly engaged in tobacco cultivation, with 1.5 million Zimbabweans—equivalent to 10 per cent of the population—relying on tobacco.

Youth involvement in tobacco production has been on the rise, with approximately 43 per cent of tobacco growers constituting the youth. Moreover, women represent 28 per cent of tobacco growers, indicating a diverse participation in the industry.

The tobacco sector in Zimbabwe is overseen by the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB). Notably, the Kutsaga Tobacco Research Board stands out as one of Africa's oldest and most esteemed tobacco research facilities, if not globally.

African production

In Africa, the continent contributes 400 million kg annually to the world's Virginia tobacco production, excluding China's production of over 3 billion kg.

Noteworthy statistics from other African countries include Malawi's tobacco sales reaching 119 million kg at an average price of USD 2.35/kg, Mozambique producing an estimated 58 million kg of various tobacco types for the 2022/23 season, and Tanzania aiming to boost tobacco production from 60 million kg to 200 million kg by 2025 to improve social and economic outcomes for its citizens.

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