By Sylivester Domasa in Dodoma
THE government has said it is exploring more markets of tobacco in Middle East, Northern Africa and Eastern Asia.
Despite dramatic declines in smoking, the tobacco industry remains the largest provider of foreign currency in the country with an annual return of $265m.
Minister for Agriculture, Prof Adolf Mkenda, told reporters on Monday after his meeting with the management and members of Tanzania Tobacco Board (TTB) that the government wanted to export its finest tobacco to China, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Algeria, Egypt and Sudan, among other countries.
“If we want to succeed we must revive our processing factories as soon as possible,” he said. Two of the processing factories in Morogoro and Songea are no longer working, according to the minister.
The minister, who was irked by foreign buyers trying to monopolise the cash crop, said his ministry would seek audience with the ministry of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation to adopt a government-to-government strategy to reach the foreign markets.
“The current system is not good. Some buyers are skipping locally produced tobacco or demand to buy at a low price… they push farmers to sell their produce to Zambia. For no reason traders go to Zambia to buy the same crop they rejected in Tanzania and at a high price… this is unacceptable,” he said.
The minister urged TTB to ensure competitiveness in the cash crop as the government worked hard to find more markets.
Prof Mkenda was concerned that contracts agreed between farmers and dealers were limited compared to the volume of tobacco produced in the country. He also urged embassies and high commissions of Tanzania to help explore more foreign markets.
Tobacco production has been largely hit by world market buyers who control the price and volume of tobacco to enter the market.
Deputy Minister for Agriculture Hussein Bashe said global demand for tobacco had declined by 5 per cent.
Mr Bashe noted that tobacco production in Tanzania was expected to rise to 67,000 metric tonnes in 2020/21 from 42,000 metric tonnes in 2019/20.
“This is due to the emergence of local buyers,” he said. According to the government, 65 per cent of the cigarettes produced in Tanzania are exported to foreign countries.