Panashe Chikonyora and Kiyara Matambanadzo
In as much as Zimbabwe’s tobacco production capacity has been affected by bad weather and inconsistent Government policies, its uptake from China is expected to remain stable as the situation in dealing with the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in that country is now under control, secretary general of the Chinese Chamber of Enterprise in Zimbabwe (CCEZ), Jay Li has said.
Jay is also company administration manager for TIAN ZE Tobacco.
China is the biggest buyer of Zimbabwe’s tobacco crop.
Jay said TIAN ZE could even carry out sampling for China’s state tobacco enterprise.
“The situation is under control now in China and the only concern is the outbreak in Africa. In that case the sample and purchasing delegates maybe delayed to come, but we won’t stop buying tobacco.
“In a worst case scenario TIAN ZE may be authorised to do sample and purchasing negotiations on behalf of China National Tobacco Corporation (China Tobacco).”
The COVID-19 outbreak has seen most countries around the world being affected economically, with South Africa, Zimbabwe’s southern neighbouring country recently declaring the spread of the virus in the country as a national disaster that is likely to gravely impact on the economy and trade.
Locally the country has also been experiencing severe drought accompanied by inconsistent payment of tobacco farmers, which according to Jay, has simultaneously affected the quality and the production of the golden leave, resulting in low yields.
The demand for Zimbabwe tobacco from China is stable especially for top quality crop.
Tobacco volumes rely on the production capacity, which will be effected by weather and Government policies.
“Zimbabwe has been suffering from drought in the past few years resulting in low yield and depreciation in the quality of tobacco.
“Government policies regarding farmers’ payments and other policies that impact on merchants are discouraging stable tobacco production,” said Jay.
CCEZ chairman and TIAN ZE Tobacco Company managing director Ye Hai said:
“So far in agriculture, tobacco in particular, there is not much negative impact.
“Even if you check on the farms and everywhere everything is going on normally. As you know China is purchasing almost half of Zimbabwe’s tobacco every year, that is about US$500 million, so normally we have delegations coming to Zimbabwe to take samples and do the purchasing.
“But this year, if they can’t come still we have enough manpower already in Zimbabwe to take the responsibility and purchase tobacco in Zimbabwe. We won’t stop,” he said.
Earlier this month, TIAN ZE Tobacco Company launched a sustainable tobacco production programme in line with Sustainable Development Goal 15, which advocates against deforestation and land degradation to improve tobacco farming economically, environmentally and socially.
According to TIAN ZE the sustainable tobacco production programme will focus on three main pillars broken down into economic, environmental and social.
The three pillars will see farmers, among other things, being given access to loans at zero percent interest rate, practice land conservation and waste management as well as fight for the elimination of child labour in the tobacco value chain.