Author Archive: speccomm

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Whirlwind

Whirlwind

| June 1, 2011

I visited the Tobacco Sales Floors this morning, interviewed Greg McDonald at Inter-Continental Leaf and caught up with Dr. Andrew Matibiri at the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board, who introduced me to Rudo Boka. Rudo is the daughter of the late Roger Boka, a controversial black-empowerment entrepreneur who in the 1990s built what was supposed […]

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Dutch treat

Dutch treat

| May 31, 2011

“The devil shits Dutchmen,” complained Sir William Batten in 1667 as he watched the English fleet burning in the Thames estuary. The famous British naval administrator was exasperated by Dutch challenges to English rule in the east Indies, on the high seas, and now even at home. While few would accuse the Netherlands of having […]

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Witchcraft

Witchcraft

| May 31, 2011

In addition to the rising cost of production, unclear property rights and limited access to capital, the tobacco grower I visited this morning had to deal with another challenge recently—witchcraft. After several of his workers were killed in a car crash and others contracted mysterious illnesses, farm laborers started accusing each other of casting spells. […]

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In a nutshell

In a nutshell

| May 31, 2011

After visiting a commercial tobacco farm and several leaf merchants, the story that emerges is as follows: Zimbabwe tobacco production used to be dominated by a small number of large-scale tobacco farmers. The majority of these commercial growers were white descendants of British colonists. At independence in 1980, the Zimbabwean government announced it would purchase […]

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Table topics

Table topics

| May 30, 2011

I had dinner with three fellow guests at York Lodge—a Belgian diamond trader, a Brazilian AIDS consultant and a member of the Danish embassy in Zambia. The diamond trader was in Zimbabwe to help the government secure the spoils of a recently discovered field—supposedly among the largest and most easily accessible in the world—and the […]

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Not your money’s worth

Not your money’s worth

| May 30, 2011

I met John Robertson today, a local economist whom I have always admired for his common sense and willingness to speak truth to power. He said the game changer in Zimbabwe has been the “dollarization” of the economy in 2009, which has restored a degree of order to the marketplace. Prior to that, hyperinflation, combined […]

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Portugese chicken

Portugese chicken

| May 29, 2011

Pleasant dinner with my good friend Murray Prince, whom I hadn’t seen for at least eight years. Murray gave me the skinny on tobacco and politics in Zimbabwe—none of it attributable, of course, but his primer will be helpful as I start my workweek.

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Getting my bearings

Getting my bearings

| May 29, 2011

One of the local leaf companies kindly let me borrow a car for the week, which should facilitate logistics considerably. I spent the day with my friend Makiwa, getting my bearings in Harare. I have a basic knowledge of the city from previous visits, but things are different when you are driving yourself. For starters, […]

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Life is good again

Life is good again

| May 29, 2011

After traveling for nearly 24 hours, watching four movies and almost finishing a badly written book on the Hells Angels motorcycle club, I am enjoying a Zambezi beer in front of my room at York Lodge in Highlands, Harare. During past visits, I’ve flown from the United States through either Johannesburg or London. Due to […]

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And the winners are…

And the winners are…

| December 1, 2009

Announcing the 2009 Golden Leaf Awards winners TR Staff Report Representatives of Sopariwala Exports, Filligent Ltd., U.S. Flue-Cured Tobacco Growers Inc. and Andromeda Forwarding received their Golden Leaf Awards trophies during a festive ceremony in the Globe restaurant on the 23rd floor of the Centara Grand Hotel in Bangkok. Against the breathtaking backdrop of Bangkok’s […]

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And the winners are

And the winners are

| December 1, 2008

Golden Leaf Awards winners accept trophies in festive atmosphere Representatives of Universal Leaf Tobacco, Tobaccotoday, U.S. Flue-Cured Tobacco Growers and Andromeda Forwarding received their Golden Leaf Awards trophies at a festive ceremony held during Tobacco Reporter’s first Global Tobacco Networking Forum at the Intercontinental Hotel in Rio de Janeiro. George Hendrata, CEO of the Golden […]

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A new concept

A new concept

| December 1, 2008

The Global Tobacco Networking Forum debuts in Rio de Janeiro.

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One journey ends, another begins

One journey ends, another begins

| June 28, 2008

With the container delivered to Beira, our journey has come to an end. Alex will return to Lilongwe with a load of grain, and I will fly back to the United States to prepare an article for Tobacco Reporter’s print issue about the logistics of tobacco in southern Africa. Our cargo, on the other hand, […]

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Cash

Cash

| June 10, 2008

Zimbabwe’s hyperinflation continues to fascinate me. I’ve seen photos of people getting trays full of change after paying for a beer in a bar. The money depreciates so quickly that Zimbabweans must spend their earnings instantly on items that hold their value better than the does beleaguered currency—which is pretty much anything these days. Apparently, […]

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Fees

Fees

| June 6, 2008

Even as the Mozambican police force is less corrupt than it was in the past, plenty of parties continue to demand “facilitation fees.” Prior to entering the port of Beira, truck drivers must clear their paperwork at a decrepit customs building just outside the gate. Some 20 young men are hanging around with no obvious […]

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Back on the road again

Back on the road again

| June 5, 2008

Traffic is light and consists mostly of trucks. We also encounter several overloaded busses heading in the opposite direction. “Mozambicans and Malawians fleeing anti-immigrant violence in South Africa,” explains Alex. At times, he pulls over to chat with a fellow Transcom Sharaf driver. Because Alex’s truck is the newest and most modern in the fleet, […]

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Who wants to be a billionaire?

Who wants to be a billionaire?

| June 4, 2008

The new Zimdollar is a note of 5 billion, not 50 billion as I wrote earlier. All the same, it means that Zimbabwe not only has the world’s best performing stockmarket, but also the greatest number of billionaires. Five billion Zimbabwe dollars equals US$2.50 today–probably half of that tomorrow. Have fun counting zeros when buying […]

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Slow-motion slalom

Slow-motion slalom

| June 4, 2008

The first part of our journey progresses smoothly. Malawi’s roads appear to be in relatively good condition. I mentioned that to Guy Harvey upon arrival in Lilongwe, but he just grinned. “Just wait until you get to Mozambique,” he said. But the roads on the other side of the border are just as smooth. “This […]

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Day-to-day

Day-to-day

| June 4, 2008

Trucker is a popular profession in Africa. Not only does it pay comparatively well, it also offers drivers an opportunity to run all sorts of businesses on the side, such as smuggling cigarettes, transporting passengers and diverting fuel. A representative of a Zimbabwean trucking company tells the story of one driver who didn’t bother to […]

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Cobs and robbers

Cobs and robbers

| June 3, 2008

We encounter our first police stop at the outskirts of Lilongwe, but the officer waves us through. Malawi police are relatively relaxed, and those in Mozambique have gotten much better as the country’s economy improves. In the 1990s, with memories of the civil war still fresh, the police in Mozambique were notorious for shaking down […]

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