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Tobacco Conference to Address Key Industry Challenges

Strong start to tobacco selling season

Next week, Zimbabwe Newspapers (Zimpapers) Group, in collaboration with the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB), will host a high-level tobacco conference aimed at addressing critical issues impacting the industry’s current state and future prospects.

This event, organized by Zimpapers’ business publication, Business Weekly, will focus on initiatives necessary to advance the country’s tobacco industry transformation strategy.

Scheduled for June 7, 2024, at the Rainbow Towers in Harare, the conference will gather key industry stakeholders, including farmers, financial institutions, and senior government officials. The discussions will center on vital issues such as alternative, locally-driven financing models and the challenges related to the existing indigenisation policy.

Industry experts highlight that the heavy reliance on offshore funding results in Zimbabwe retaining minimal value from its tobacco exports. Additionally, the prevailing contract farming system places farmers in debt and limits the financial benefits to the country. Therefore, the conference aims to foster collaboration between the government, financial institutions, and industry stakeholders to develop a roadmap for a more sustainable and profitable tobacco industry.

Despite tobacco being Zimbabwe’s second-largest foreign currency earner, concerns persist regarding the nation’s share of export proceeds and the true extent of indigenous participation. While black Zimbabweans might own land, the value chain is largely dominated by multinationals, relegating black farmers to peripheral roles with limited control. Furthermore, the true independence of indigenous merchants is questioned, as they may receive financial backing from multinationals, undermining genuine economic empowerment.

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Black Zimbabwean companies also face difficulties breaking into new markets, with many existing black-owned businesses reportedly acting as surrogates for multinational corporations. This dependency on multinationals restricts authentic economic empowerment for black Zimbabweans.

“We expect the conference to raise awareness about the current model’s drawbacks and foster a clear understanding of alternative financing options,” said Business Weekly editor Herbet Zharare. “We hope to identify key players and their roles in implementing a new model, ultimately leading to collaborative action plans for a more sustainable tobacco financing system in Zimbabwe. The conference presents a critical opportunity to not only address foreign financial dependence but also ensure the true empowerment of black Zimbabweans within the tobacco industry.”

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The event will also explore strategies to maximize Zimbabwe’s value capture from tobacco, focusing on attracting domestic and foreign investment to build processing facilities and infrastructure for beneficiation. Additionally, it will address crucial Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) considerations, including managing insurance challenges due to climate change and eliminating child labor practices.

The conference will feature a prestigious lineup of speakers, including Professor Jiri, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development; Mr. Emmanuel Matsvaire, acting chief executive of the TIMB; Mr. Paul Zakariya, executive director of the Zimbabwe Farmers Union; representatives from the Ministry of Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion; Willing Dizawatiza from the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe; leading bankers; insurance companies; tobacco merchants; cigarette producers; and prominent economists.

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