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TRACKING TOBACCO INDUSTRY IN ZAMBIA

…As Tobacco Board of Zambia (TBZ) is set to spend millions to defeat healthcare

By SIMON MWANZA
THE tobacco backroom deals which are oblivious to the harm this crop does to the health of people have taken a new coil in Zambia.

Tobacco Board of Zambia (TBZ) which is one of Zambia’s top and largest tobacco producing firms has now turned to China where it is growing its roots to expand its plantations in Zambia as it continues to fight anti-tobacco legislations.

In its strategic plan 2017-21 which forms part of its 2017 annual report just released, TBZ plans to contribute to the economic welfare of Zambia by making tobacco the most preferred cash crop in the republic.

To that effect TBZ has launched vicious campaign activities to woo investors to the tobacco industry and this year it undertook a foreign trip to China, one of the world’s largest tobacco consumers, while tobacco samples were also exported to Korea and Czech republics for possible new markets for the Zambian tobacco’

During the same period under review TBZ, among its international engagements, dispatched its representatives to attend the Chinese Business Export in Shanghai, China.

As a consequence of that visit, the Bank of China has offered TBZ a loan to provide Mini Processing Plants in Zambia’s three tobacco growing areas, an idea which is still being pursued through the Private Public Partnership (PPP).

During the same time the board sent a team to Zimbabwe and Malawi to try and understand how the industry in those parts of the sub-regions had evolved to contribute up to 25 per cent and 65 per cent to GDP respectively with a view to do the same in Zambia.
It is obvious that TBZ is more than determined not only to build confidence in the tobacco industry as it has taken it upon itself to also lure more foreign investors so that tobacco, according to the board, takes its rightful place as the most profitable cash crop in Zambia.

To enhance its position locally, TBZ held engagements with various stakeholders, among them were merchants (buyers) farmers, insurance companies, tobacco associations, business regulatory agency, local cigarette manufacturers such as British American Tobacco (BAT) Roland Imperial Tobacco and Copper Leaf.

In the same report TBZ brags that the performance of the tobacco industry in Zambia has continued to improve as the number of registered tobacco farmers grew by almost 2 per cent while the volume of the harvested crop in tonnes grew by 0.26 per cent from 23.3 million to 23.4 million.

The company also plans to increase tobacco production from the current 29 million to 40 million kilos by October 2021.
From the above it is clear that tobacco industry in Zambia is headed for greater elevations with corresponding health challenges such as increased heart attacks, strokes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (including emphysema and chronic bronchitis), and several cancers (particularly lung cancer, cancers of the larynx and mouth, bladder cancer, and pancreatic cancer) that come with tobacco consumption.

TBZ however admits in the same report that the World Health Organisation Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC) remains its biggest threat to the future of the industry as Zambia is among the few countries in Africa that has ratified the protocol.

The question that begs the answer is how the anti-tobacco watchdogs will tackle the situation in ensuring that the health of Zambians is not compromised in any way.

The onus remains on such organisations that ensure consumption of tobacco is reduced in Zambia, and that measures are put in place to conform to the ratification of the WHO-FCTC.