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Brief History History

Production of tobacco in Zambia dates back to early 1920’s when White Settler grew it on a small scale. The importance of tobacco as a cash crop grew over the years up to the early past independence years.

Realizing the important role tobacco can play in the National Economy, the Zambian Government undertook a program of setting up tobacco infrastructures in selected parts of the country. These included construction of roads, dams, curing facilities, personnel accommodation and many other related capital work. In addition, a tobacco threshing and packing plant was commission in 1967 with 20,000 tonne capacity.

Despite the entire infrastructure set to boost tobacco production, there was no remarkable increase in the tobacco production. Below are figures for tobacco production from 1976 to 1990.

With the formation of Tobacco Board of Zambia (TBZ) (1964) and the establishment of assisted Tenant Schemes, Tenant Farms and Family Farming Schemes, the Government hoped to increase production but TBZ did not achieve much due to many reasons amongst which included inadequate funds.

With support from the World Bank (IBRD and CDC), sixty-one (61) Tobacco Schemes were established in various parts of Zambia and were operated by TBZ which was directly responsible for tobacco production, buying from farmers, processing and export, as well as research and development.

However, in 1980, the Government re-organised TBZ as it was thought that the organisation was incapable of increasing production and therefore opted to promote production through the Department of Agriculture, but to the contrary, production deteriorated. The decline of tobacco production was mainly attributed to:

  1. Government red tape in releasing operating funds to tobacco schemes;
  2. Lack of season loans to the growers (especially the small-scale growers)
  3. Low producer prices;
  4. Lack of motivation amongst the extension workers; and

Late payments to farmers after selling their tobacco. In order to eliminate the above constraints, the Government created NATCO whose objectives were to:

  • Promote tobacco production amongst farmers through incentives;
  • Ensure availability of technical advice to tobacco farmers through extension service and tobacco research;
  • Administer a credit scheme amongst tobacco growers especially small scale growers;
  • Acquire and sell inputs to farmers;
  • Process tobacco in Zambia;
  • Sell tobacco to customers on behalf of farmers;
  • Create export markets to tobacco

In 1980, Tobacco Schemes were found to be non-viable due to financial constraints. This lead to the transfer of production to the Department of Agriculture.

NATCO had serious difficulties in its general operations, recovering of loans given to tobacco farmers and did not have capital to run the Tobacco Schemes effectively. The failure of NATCO to provide services effectively lead to its demise in 1995. TBZ therefore continued providing its role of guiding and as custodian of tobacco assets in the Zambia.

On 29th September 1994 the NATCO Board was dissolved and the TBZ Board was re-organised in order to ensure continuity of development of the Zambian Tobacco Industry. The functions of TBZ were as follows:

  1. To promote, protect and facilitate production and export of tobacco grown in the Republic;
  2. To control and regulate the production, marketing and export of tobacco;
  3. To carry out tobacco Research;
  4. To obtain and collate statistics relating to the production, marketing, manufacture and consumption of tobacco inside and outside the Republic;
  5. To promote and operate such services and other facilities as may be necessary or convenient for the tobacco industry;
  6. To advise the Minister on all matters relating to the tobacco industry;
  7. To do all things which the provision of the Tobacco Act CAP 237 of the Laws of Zambia and CAP 238 of the Laws of Zambia require to be done by the Board.

TBZ also facilitates financial support to three Tobacco Associations through the Government Programme of Poverty Alleviation through the Tobacco Out-grower Scheme Fund which started in 2013 in Northern and Luapula provinces.


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