A dying business: Zambia's new farmers.

Author:Gomes, Pacitor
Position:This Month's Prize Letter - Letter to the Editor

It was interesting to read about the number of Zimbabwean white farmers who have moved north of the Zambezi River to settle in Zambia (Is Zim's loss Zambia's gain? African Business May 2004). The one thing I find puzzling about this trend is that most of these farmers are growing tobacco, and receiving support from the giant American tobacco companies to do so. I thought that southern Africa was attempting to phase out tobacco growing, and Zambia's neighbour Malawi had been, at the behest of the World Health Organisation (WHO), encouraging its tobacco farmers to diversify into other crops.

So if the big tobacco companies are investing in Zambia's tobacco sector, what is their business plan? Zambia's tobacco production is fairly small compared to both Zimbabwe's crop which (in 2001) amounted to some 200,000t, and Malawi's crop of the same year of about 150,000t. Are they assuming that they cannot rely on Zimbabwe's crop in future years due to that country's political instability? Are they also assuming that Malawi's harvest will be reduced in coming years and they'll need to find other producers to take up the shortfall?

I know that many of Zimbabwe's white tobacco farmers think that the campaign by the WHO and others to curb tobacco...

To continue reading