ZIMBABWEAN farmers have been urged to migrate to industrial hemp as anti-tobacco sentiment, which has already affected the consumption of cigarettes by 2.5% annually is expected to further dampen demand.
The Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (TIMB) says industrial hemp is low-hanging fruit and is already looking into the future of full-scale growth of the crop.
“Cannabis is one of the crops we are looking at as an alternative crop,” TIMB Ceo, Meanwell Gudu told The Business Report.
“As you know it is a difficult crop to grow. It is almost grown in a cantonment in collaboration with security services. What we believe to be a low-hanging fruit is industrial hemp, which can be grown by any farmer,” he added.
The board has 145,000 registered tobacco growers, who started selling 2022’s crop at auctions last week. Farmers will be encouraged to plant cannabis so that a quarter of their income comes from the plant by 2025.
Gudu said anti-tobacco lobbyists had prompted the need to venture into alternative crops.
There is increased work of lobbyists that are working against tobacco consumption at a global level. The consumption of cigarettes has gone down by 2,5% annually.
We must look for alternative farming activities for our farmers. We are also developing alternative crops for our tobacco farmers,” Gudu said.
Zimbabwe, which is third in tobacco exports after Brazil and India has also come under increasing pressure to ensure compliance to sustainable tobacco curing, where the country should minimise deforestation.
Through the afforestation levied at point of sale, the Forestry Commission of Zimbabwe has managed to spearhead an afforestation programme.
“We now have an increased call to produce tobacco that is compliant to sustainable tobacco production. What has happened at global level is that the blue-chip companies, our customers have developed a code that is called the sustainable tobacco programme. As a supplier, we need to comply with that code,” Gudu said,
“In terms of sustainable tobacco farming, we must come up with programme of compliance. One of the programmes is a blitz of afforestation.
We plant a lot of trees. The farmers contribute through the afforestation levy which is deducted at the point of sale. The tobacco merchants are also self-levying.”