The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board says Zimbabwe should be actively involved in the dialogue around banning tobacco to protect its economic interests. TIMB board chairman Mrs Monica Chinamasa said local farmers should continue growing the crop while the country participates in the dialogue around the tobacco ban.
"We must be involved in the dialogue and defend our position to say it is a livelihood in Zimbabwe and that we have no alternative crop that is as well paying as tobacco," she said.
Mrs Chinamasa scoffed at the tobacco ban saying the World Health Organisation concerns were not convincing but were only targeting the many farmers earning a living from the crop.
"They say the ban is because of health reasons, but what else do people consume in excess and not suffer from the effects? After all, we export the tobacco and we are hardly consumers. So we have to defend our position together with other countries like us who see tobacco as a livelihood for their people," she said.
The United Nations in 2005 came up with a global treaty, Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, pleading with all countries to join the landmark agreement that seeks to curb tobacco growing and consumption, especially among children.
Last year Zimbabwe produced about 144,5 million kg against a projected 130 million kg of the golden leaf with output this year targeted at 170 million kg.
Tobacco is one of Zimbabwe's major agricultural exports, accounting for 10,7 percent of GDP. Major export destinations for Zimbabwean tobacco include China, UK, South Africa, Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates, Mauritius and Russia.