Tanzania wants to increase export of tobacco. In its most recent export expansion plans, the government announced it is eyeing markets in traditionally large consumers of tobacco products such as the Middle East, Northern Africa and Eastern Asian markets.
Tobacco and tobacco products are one of the big forex earners for Tanzania raking in an annual return of USD265m on average. Tanzania is the ninth largest tobacco producer in the world. However, tobacco production has been largely affected by ‘world market buyers who control the price and volume of tobacco that enters the market.’
In this regard, Tanzania’s Deputy Minister for Agriculture Hussein Bashe noted that global demand for tobacco has declined by five per cent. However, he remained confident that despite global decline in demand, Tanzania, according to him, expects to increase production to 67,000 metric tonnes in 2020/21 from 42,000 metric tonnes in 2019/20. He was also very clear that specifically 65 per cent of cigarettes produced in Tanzania are to be exported.
The Minister for Agriculture, Prof Adolf Mkenda, stated that the government wants to export its tobacco to China, Middle East, Indonesia, Algeria, Egypt and Sudan, among other countries. He urged for value addition to tobacco before export to attract higher selling prices and pointed to the need to revive processing factories citing at least two defunct ones in Morogoro and Songea.
Also Read: Global demand for tobacco remains stable
Prof Mkenda also alleged sector monopolization by foreign buyers and said his ministry would consult with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation to develop a government strategy for the marketing and selling of tobacco and tobacco products.
Meanwhile, foreign exchange earnings from agricultural products considered ‘traditional foreign exchange earners’ are dropping. According to the Central Bank, the value of agriculture based exports decreased to USD135.5M in December 2020 from USD153M over the same period in 2019. The big ‘droppers’ are coffee and tea but also cotton, sisal, cashew nuts and tobacco.
Tobacco and your health
Every year, more than 17,200 Tanzanians are killed by tobacco-caused disease. Still, more than 17,000 children (10-14 years old) and 3,183,000 adults (15+ years old) continue to use tobacco each day. Complacency in the face of the tobacco epidemic insulates the tobacco industry in Tanzania and ensures that tobacco-related death toll will grow every year.
Despite these worrisome figures, it would appear the monetary value remains a more decisive factor than related–health issues.
Tobacco control advocates must reach out to other communities and resources to strengthen their efforts and create change.
The combined revenue of the world’s six largest tobacco companies in 2016 was more than USD346B, 642% larger than the Gross National Income of Tanzania.
The industry is a powerful force that does not fear the actions of nation-states because of their extensive resources and global market power.