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Zimbabwe Tobacco Industry Considers Switch to Cannabis

The country’s tobacco exports in Zimbabwe brought in $794 million for 2020. This is down from $927 million in 2016, when it was at its highest. Tobacco is the country’s third most valuable export crop after gold and nickel matte. It is however, facing serious threats from COVID, drought, and the shift of production to South Africa.

In contrast, authorities are already planning for cannabis to be the country’s largest cash crop with earnings well over a billion dollars within the next five years. In 2017, the country shipped 30 tons of industrial cannabis to Switzerland. Another 20 tons are expected to be exported in 2018.

The government is encouraging tobacco farmers to move to cannabis. In the three-year period, cannabis sales will make up at least 25% of farmers’ incomes.

The Zimbabwean government has granted licenses to 57 cannabis-growing companies.

Black Farmers are Getting a Change

Black farmers in Zimbabwe have the greatest problem in Zimbabwe’s current market. No matter their crop, they are continually squeezed into smaller farms by intermediaries. They are the only way they can get their products to the market.

Since 2000, Black farmers have taken over former white farms after Robert Mugabe’s supporters seized white-owned plantations. The country’s tobacco industry was temporarily halted by this. However, this industry has been recovering since 2008.

However, the problem the vast majority (if not all) of Zimbabwe’s farmers still have to face is accessing the international market and the capital and supplies required to plant and harvest the crops. Many small farmers find it difficult to earn a living while they borrow money for seeds, fertilizer, equipment, and labor to plant their crops. They also have to pay tiny pennies for commodities they will sell at an auction bound mainly for China.

The infrastructure was established when the banks stopped lending to this sector. This is because the government has not officially transferred the land it took from its previous owners, but instead gave the land to farmers. Contract sellers often funded with Chinese funds are in a position to receive top-dollar for their crops but pay very little to farmers.

However, this is changing slowly. Anxious Masuka (Agriculture Minister) stated that in 2020 tobacco farmers will receive 60% of the sale price, up from 50% for 2019.

Although many tobacco farmers were released under the scheme, it is not clear that cannabis cultivation would cause the exact same problems.

Global Cannabis Industry Still Has a Scarcity of Social Equity

One of the most shocking facts in cannabis business is that while it may be lucrative for small numbers of companies, the majority of those firms are owned and managed by white men. About 10% of the executives in countries like Canada and the US are not white. According to data from recent years, women and ethnic minorities are losing ground globally in the legitimate industry.

This is due in part to historical inequities, as well as the non-availability or even partial availability of loans to set up certified plantations in the developing countries.

This means that unless this problem is rectified, no matter how much focus governments put on cannabis cultivation and production as an “economic development tool,” the vast majority of such economic development, if not sales, will still go to a small (and mostly white, male) minority.