Sunday, February 17, 2013

Zimbabwe Risks Losing International Tobacco Buyers

Zim risks losing international tobacco buyers

Sunday, 17 February 2013 00:00
Faith Mhandu
Zimbabwe Sunday Mail

Zimbabwe risks losing some of its international tobacco buyers if the country does not take concrete steps to deal with deforestation that is caused by farmers who use wood to cure their crop, a senior industry official has warned. The chairperson of the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB), Mrs Monica Chinamasa, last week disclosed that buyers have threatened to look elsewhere if African countries do not address concerns around deforestation and child labour.

Speaking on the sidelines of the official opening of this year’s tobacco marketing season, Mrs Chinamasa said while cases of child labour are minimal in Zimbabwe, the country needs to do more to fight deforestation.

“Some buyers have raised concerns on deforestation and child labour. Although we know child labour is not an issue in Zimbabwe since our laws are strict about it, deforestation threatens the future of our industry,” said Mrs Chinamasa.

She said farmers should start reforestation as soon as possible and also look for alternative sources of energy to cure their tobacco.

She also said deforestation not only threatens the industry but the environment as well.

“The effects of deforestation do not affect tobacco marketing only but also come with the climatic change effects that we are already experiencing,” she said.

Mrs Chinamasa disclosed that the TIMB is now insisting that tree seedlings should be available wherever tobacco seeds are sold.

Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union second vice-president Mr Berean Mukwende argued that deforestation and child labour could be a ploy to destabilise the economies of developing countries.

“Most of the buyers who are raising these concerns are former colonisers who have a hidden agenda of destabilising the economies of producing countries,” said Mr Mukwende.

He said the concerns were no longer an issue in Zimbabwe since the country has since embarked on various reforestation programmes while most farmers have also switched to coal as a source of energy.

“Zimbabwe has one of the largest coal reserves compared to other African countries.

“I am glad that there has been an increase in the number of farmers who switched to coal as a source of energy this season.”

He added that child labour was not an issue in Zimbabwe since the country has a national employment council for agriculture where stakeholders meet often to trace abnormalities in the industry.

“Our agriculture labour issues are well documented although we can not rule out exceptions.

“What is left now is for awareness campaigns directed at small-scale farmers who may take the issue for granted.”

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