Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Star Tobacco undertakes to empower farmers with skills
By Kabanda Chulu
Mon 02 Sep. 2013, 14:00 CAT

ZAMBIAN small-scale farmers should be empowered with new skills and techniques if the country is to become a regional tobacco producer, says Star Tobacco International chief executive officer Iqbal Lambat.

In an interview after making an investment presentation to the Zambia Development Agency, Zambia National Farmers Union and the Tobacco Board of Zambia, Lambat said his company would introduce new farming models aimed at increasing the production of tobacco.

"We are not interested in buying and selling only but we want to engage smallholder farmers on the three aspects of mechanisation, irrigation and education. This way, they shall improve yields because of the new skills they will acquire," Lambat said.

"We shall put them in clusters like small groups, where they will share resources and ideas on tobacco growing. Actually, these models we intend to introduce have worked very well in China and India, and this is why we want to replicate them in Zambia through the significant investments that we shall undertake in the country."

Tobacco Board of Zambia chairman Ben Mahombe said with good sponsorship, Zambian farmers had potential to produce huge volumes of tobacco.

"The tobacco industry is making an annual contribution of more than K500 million to the economy of Zambia, of which about 66 per cent of the total tobacco is produced by small-scale farmers, who include women. While the industry is doing fine, the production costs continue to be high in the range of K20,000 per hectare," Mahombe said.

"Therefore, almost all farmers need financial support by way of sponsorship of tobacco production if they have to produce tobacco of good quality on the market."

He said the coming of Star Tobacco International at a time when small-scale farmers needed sponsorship for their tobacco programmes was a blessing to the industry.

"We have had initial discussions with Star Tobacco since February, and their coming clearly shows that the company is serious about participating in the Zambian tobacco industry," said Mahombe.

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