WINDHOEK – Chinese Ambassador to Namibia Xin Shunkang said tobacco produced from the mooted tobacco plantation in Zambezi Region is not meant for local consumption but rather for the lucrative market in China.
Shunkang yesterday told New Era on the sidelines of a meeting with the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry John Mutorwa that the project would provide a platform for Namibians to derive skills from Chinese tobacco farmers.
“The plantation will also be used to plant maize, hence the request for a large area. The tobacco will not be used or sold in Namibia, after it is processed. It will be moved to the Chinese market,” elaborated Ambassador Shunkang.
He said a massive N$1 billion earmarked for the project is already available.
“If Namibia can do it quicker, the project will commence because the investors are ready and the money is ready,” he said.
Shunkang said Chinese tobacco plantations in Zimbabwe have seen that country earning millions of dollars through exports of the much-sought tobacco leaf.
“The tobacco projects in Zimbabwe are a great example because the farmers that side have earned good money,” said the Chinese Ambassador in answer to detractors of the project, who claim more people would start to smoke.
Shunkang urged Chinese tobacco producers to teach Namibian farmers to plant tobacco when the project eventually starts.
Chinese company, Namibia Oriental Tobacco cc applied for 10 000 hectares in the Zambezi Region to grow tobacco and maize.
The application was met with stern resistance from Namibians, who questioned government’s consideration to dish out such large tracts of land to the Chinese company.
Many cited health reasons, while others suggested the land meant for the tobacco farm should be used for crop production, as they argue this will boost food security.
Many villagers in the area have also decried the fact that the tobacco project would curtail the grazing land for their livestock.
Previous media reports also said Zambezi Region Governor Lawrence Sampofu confirmed the N$1 billion Chinese tobacco and maize project was given a go-ahead.
“The Mafwe Traditional Authority already gave them the land. We are just waiting for them to come and begin. If the project gets off the ground, it would help the region fight unemployment and poverty. It is not only tobacco but other crops as well. Tobacco will be produced on a seasonal basis, after that it will be maize, potatoes and other crops,” Sampofu reportedly said.