AT least $22 million in afforestation levy was collected from tobacco farmers over the last three tobacco marketing seasons, an official has said.
Farmers are charged 0,75 percent levy on tobacco sales, which is expected to go towards the country’s afforestation initiatives. An estimated 300 000 hectares of forests are lost to deforestation every year, with tobacco farmers said to be responsible for the loss of about 15 percent of that.
Appearing before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environment and Tourism, accountant general in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Mr Daniel Muchemwa said the $22 million was collected between 2015 and 2018.
“There is an afforestation fund that was established under TIMB, so far, we collected $22 211 335.71. Of that amount, $13 219 847 was paid over to Treasury and the afforestation fund under TIMB (Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board) has to recover that money from Treasury,” he said.
“Fifty percent of that amount will go to TIMB while the remainder goes to the Forestry Commission for the establishment of forests that will be used by farmers to cure their tobacco, that is the intention of the levy,” added Muchemwa.
The legislators, however, queried why the TIMB was put in charge of the afforestation programme yet the Forestry Commission, which was established to carry out the mandate, was there.
“The Forestry Commission has not received anything at this point. If the legislature’s view is that all that money, including what was collected in the past should be transferred to the Forestry Commission, no problem,” responded Muchemwa.
The tobacco levy on growers was re-introduced at a rate of 1,5 percent of the selling price in 2015, with the funds earmarked for reforestation activities. It was then reduced from 1,5 percent to 0,75 percent.
Stakeholders commend the re-introduction of the levy, especially at a time when the international community is pushing for tobacco that is produced in a sustainable way.
Tobacco buyers now want to purchase the crop from countries that do not de-forest in the process of tobacco production.
Last year, Zimbabwe produced 252 million kilogrammes of tobacco and the bulk of the crop was cured using firewood.
— New Ziana