Maputo — Mozambique Leaf Tobacco (MLT) plans to reduce its tobacco production in the northern province of Niassa, in the next agricultural campaign, because of the added difficulties of selling tobacco during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Cited in Wednesday’s issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”, Claudio Ferreira, the MLT manager for Niassa and Zambezia said that some countries that are potential markets for Mozambican tobacco have reduced their imports significantly in order to protect the health of their citizens.
Smoking has always carried major health risks, and tobacco is one of the few products that is guaranteed to harm its consumers. But the risks of tobacco are greatly exacerbated by Covid-19, hence the redoubled efforts by health ministries to reduce the number of people who smoke.
“The World Health Organisation (WHO) has also been advising smokers to abandon tobacco, and these appeals are being listened to”, said Ferreira.
Preparations, including the distribution of inputs, are already being made for the 2020-2021 agricultural year. Ferreira said MLT will work with 36,500 peasant producers, about 4,000 less than in the 2019-2020 year. The area under tobacco cultivation will shrink, he added, but did not say by how much.
This will come as a blow to Niassa farmers who have been relying on tobacco for a large part of their income
The Niassa provincial governor, Judite Massenguele, said the agricultural directorate in the province has already begun to persuade tobacco farmers to switch to crops such as cotton, soya and sesame.
The Niassa government also dreams of setting up a tobacco processing plant in the province, believing that this will create jobs. But so far no private sector partner seems interested in such a plant, the viability of which must be regarded as doubtful.