Data from the industry regulator Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) has indicated that after 53 days of trade, tobacco sales were at $292,8 million, down from $523,5 million achieved last season. Similarly, deliveries were down by 12% at 157,7 million kg from 180,3 million kg delivered in the same period last year. Naturally, this means that the price being offered for the crop is also lower than last year at an average of $1,85 per kg, down from $2,87 per kg.

The fact that more people are becoming conscious about the dangers of smoking, is leading to declines in cigarette sales, but this spells disaster for tobacco farmers in developing countries.

The economies of a number of developing countries, namely some Asian and African countries including Indonesia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, are dependent on tobacco farming.

Due to the advent of technologies such as e-cigarettes, and the fact that more people are becoming conscious about the dangers of smoking, cigarette sales are thankfully on the decline, but this spells disaster for farmers whose livelihood depends on tobacco.

Meanwhile, tobacco companies are naturally doing their best to hang onto the tobacco trade happening in such countries. According to a 2017 report by SEATCA’s Tobacco Industry Interference Index, a system which assesses how countries are adhering to the WHO’s tobacco policies, the tobacco industry has been using lobby groups to kill any efforts by policymakers to implement tobacco regulations in Asia. The index pointed out that the situation is especially precarious in Indonesia, Vietnam and Myanmar.

Back in Zimbabwe, Rodney Ambrose from the Zimbabwe Tobacco Association, said that despite the challenges, this year’s target of 220 million kg was still attainable. “We still have at least one and a half months to complete selling,” he said.

Tobacco farming businesses should be transitioned into sustainable non-tobacco ones

On the other hand, an article published on The Hill last year had pointed out, that measures should be taken to avoid disaster and help turn tobacco farming businesses into non-tobacco agricultural ones. “This disruption, if managed properly, could be an opportunity for African farmers to switch to non-tobacco agricultural products and increase the global food supply.”

The piece had gone on to explain that with the current world population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, out of which 2.2 billion will live in Africa, the world is not going to be able to meet the future food demand. For this to be met, about 50% more food, feed, and biofuel will need to be produced, which would need an investment of $265 billion per year. Therefore, if former tobacco farmers were to be trained, equipped and supported to switch to farming food, rather than tobacco, it would be a win win situation for everyone.

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