ITGA 2023 Africa Regional Meeting

Tobacco central to African producers’ economies

Growers’ representatives from four of the leading tobacco producing markets in Africa – Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe – met in Harare, Zimbabwe for the International Tobacco Growers’ Association (ITGA) 2023 Africa Regional Meeting. Participants requested the support of their governments in the face of multiple threats affecting tobacco production which brings enormous socio-economic benefits to the region. The key topics discussed during the two-day event were the sustainability efforts of growers within the ESG framework and the pressing challenges in each of their respective markets.

The meeting was officially opened by the Guest of Honour, the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, Hon. Dr. Anxious Masuka. The Minister expressed strong support for the tobacco sector and highlighted the central role of tobacco growing for Zimbabwe’s economy. Dr. Masuka provided details about the country’s Tobacco Transformation Plan 2025 which aims at increasing value addition of the crop and improving local earnings. He went on to laud this season’s record volumes, record earnings and record average prices for tobacco growers and stated that the actions of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) are “ill-informed and ill-timed”. “Tobacco in Zimbabwe is an important crop and we are not making any apologies about it.”

Ryan Swales, the President of Zimbabwe Tobacco Association (ZTA), highlighted the important opportunity this meeting is bringing for the region in debating the pressing issues, but most importantly for Zimbabwe, given the specific challenges attached to the market, predominantly in sustainability.

In his address to the floor, ITGA’s President José Javier Aranda made a call to governments to support growers in their sustainable tobacco production efforts as the livelihoods of millions of people around the world depended on it. Tobacco growing brings valuable contributions to local economies in the form of labour, income, and further opportunities for growth. Aranda also emphasised that tobacco growers operate within a legal framework. “Governments need to look at farmers as their main strategic partners and support their efforts.”

During the Open Session, representatives from Africa’s four leading tobacco growing countries (Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe), were joined by key partners and stakeholders in the Zimbabwean tobacco sector. In this session, participants were also able to follow presentations about the current developments in the global leaf market, with focus on Africa production and pricing, the outlook of the regulatory environment and possible implications for growers and a detailed analysis of the ITGA 2023 Market Survey, highlighting the economic, social and environmental challenges for growers in all leading tobacco growing areas. Finally, there were two comprehensive debate sessions with key stakeholders in the four represented markets discussing sustainable tobacco productions and the efforts made to overcome the pressing challenges of the region – cost of production, deforestation, climate change, poverty and lack of opportunities for the youth.

Finally, attention was brought to May 31, when ITGA carried out the World Understanding Tobacco Farming Day campaign. Aranda made a call to rally the sector against the demonisation of tobacco growing. ITGA is raising awareness about the realities of tobacco farming to stop the unfounded claims by the WHO FCTC in their World No Tobacco Day

During the ITGA Africa Regional Meeting closed session, Countries presented their reports covering production trends for the past seasons, sales data to date, sustainability and afforestation programs in their respective countries. Also covered were the individual associations’ activities and interactions with their members.

Tobacco growers in Malawi have strengthened their efforts in producing a compliant crop, which is the pillar of the country’s export revenue generation. In Tanzania, tobacco is one of the five strategic crops and among the three top commodities in term of foreign exchange earnings. Tobacco also has a very positive socio-economic contributor to the economy in Zambia where focus is primarily on compliance and sustainable production. In Zimbabwe, the current sustainability focus is on curing fuels, agricultural labour practices and traceability.

Common to the presentations were projected increased production, an increased need for more sustainability programs and declining viability. On increased production, of interest, Tanzania has almost doubled its production in the space of two seasons, to 110 million kg and there is a national target of 200 million kg in the coming season. Tanzania produce a large portion of filler styles of tobacco, cheaper than many competitors, that could have an impact on pricing and demand of such styles of tobacco in other markets.

It was resolved that the ITGA‘s strategy should focus on viability. The meeting adopted the motion for Tanzania to rejoin the ITGA.

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