HARARE – Government is looking for an alternative lucrative crop other than tobacco in the face of a possible global ban on tobacco.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has been campaigning for the ban of tobacco grounds on health grounds and now international buyers have vowed not to but tobacco that is not produced in a sustainable way.
Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri last week said there was need to find an alternative crop to tobacco.
He said this while addressing white commercial farmers at a meeting at Esbank Farm in Mazowe.
Minister Shiri said although it was still a long way to come before the total ban on the use of tobacco products comes into effect but still strategies should be put in place to cushion farmers and the country at large in the event the ban on tobacco comes to pass.
He said Government appreciated the contribution of the white commercial farmers in finding an alternative crop that would replace tobacco as a gold leaf of Zimbabwe considering the push for a ban on tobacco production by the World Health Organisation.
“It is an undisputed fact that tobacco is the largest non-food crop by monetary value in the world. With crops such as maize, wheat and cotton fast losing gloss, if tobacco production is banned, the rest would be history if we do not find an alternative crop.
“More so, thousands of people are employed in the tobacco industry from farm level through beneficiation, to the by-products level. It follows that if tobacco production is ultimately banned there would be some serious negative multiplier effects on our economy.
“Cognisant of the farming dexterity and knowledge base within the white commercial farmers, Government is therefore making a clarion call on you to play a pivotal role in finding an alternative crop to replace tobacco as the golden leaf of the country,” he said.
He reminded farmers that agriculture was not only about growing maize tobacco, soya beans and other traditional cash crops and urged farmers to become innovative and creative in their choice of production enterprises and markets for their produce.
“Farmers should scout for both regional and international markets to generate the much needed foreign currency through exports. At the same time specialised sectors such as horticulture need to be fully exploited since there is abundant demand for horticultural produce in established markets such as Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
“It is important for me to mention that the thrust for production and productivity is the one which has necessitated Government’s renewed and concerted effort to work closely with you the white commercial farmers considering your vast experience in the important field of commercial farming,” he said.