Category: Out of Africa

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Tobacco to take to the sky

| August 18, 2014

Boeing, South African Airways (SAA) and SkyNRG have announced they are collaborating to make sustainable aviation biofuel from a new type of tobacco plant, according to a story in the Nigerian Tribune.

This initiative broadens cooperation between Boeing and SAA to develop renewable jet fuel in ways that support South Africa’s goals for public health as well as economic and rural development.

Speaking on the deal, J. Miguel Santos, managing director for Africa, Boeing International, said that: “It’s an honor for Boeing to work with South African Airways on a pioneering project to make sustainable jet fuel from an energy-rich tobacco plant.

“South Africa is leading efforts to commercialise a valuable new source of biofuel that can further reduce aviation’s environmental footprint and advance the region’s economy.”

SkyNRG is expanding production of the hybrid plant known as Solaris as an energy crop that farmers could grow instead of traditional tobacco.

Tobacco the crop of choice in Zimbabwe

| May 9, 2013

Zimbabwe had sold 107 million kg of flue-cured tobacco for a total of $400 million by the end of the 55th day of sales, according to a story in the Zimbabwe Herald.

By the same stage of last season’s sales, 84 million kg of flue-cured had been sold for  $315 million.

The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board was said to be confident that this season’s 170 million kg target would be surpassed.

And the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union vice president, Johnson Mapira, was quoted as saying that tobacco production was expected to continue to increase because of favourable farm prices. Tobacco was the only crop where farmers were guaranteed good prices and instant cash.

Mapira said the good payment method used in respect of tobacco sales meant that tobacco farmers did not have problems paying their workers. And he said that farmers were now using some of the proceeds from tobacco to support other projects.

China: HongyunHonghe launches cigarette-processing unit in Africa

| April 25, 2013

HongyunHonghe Tobacco Group, in southwest China’s Yunnan Province, recently launched its cigarette-processing unit for Africa at the Walvis Bay port in Namibia.

The project is intended to produce HongyunHonghe’s Yunyan, Honghe, Honghe and Honghe brands for sale in Africa.

The annual production capacity of the unit could reach 1 billion cigarettes.

One journey ends, another begins

| June 28, 2008

All aboard!

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, has only started its long voyage to Philip Morris Germany. The container has been booked on the MSC Chaneca, which will sail on June 15. The vessel will take it to Durban, South Africa, where it will probably sit for a few days until it can be loaded onto a mainliner—one of those huge containerships that traverse the high seas.

Depending on where else the mainliner will call—Rotterdam or perhaps Antwerp—the journey to Bremen can take up to four weeks.

When Philip Morris’ employees finally unload the Malawi tobacco in late July or early August, they are unlikely to reflect on the dedicated efforts and careful coordination that made the delivery possible.

And why should they?

See ya

After all, if the transportation companies are doing their jobs well, their clients will never have a clue about the obstacles that must be overcome to get them their tobacco—unless, of course, they’ve followed this blog or are a regular reader of Tobacco Reporter.


| 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, Zimbabwean prostitutes have even been demanding payment in diesel.

I try to picture people paying for big-ticket items such as cars in these circumstances. Would there be enough space in the showroom to hold the cash?

It’s not an entirely unrealistic vision, because many African economies are cash-only. In Malawi, for example, few people have access to credit because there is no national identification system. Without birth certificates, it is almost impossible for people to prove they are who they say they are.

When Transcom’s Guy Fawcett purchased a pickup truck recently, he had to bring US$30,000 in cash to the dealership—and then the saleswoman tried to trick him by folding one stack of notes in a way that made it seem as if there wasn’t enough money.

So, while many things are done differently in Africa, the ethics of salespeople appear to be consistent with those of their counterparts in the West.


| 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 purpose. I meet the gaze of one of them, and he responds with a hand gesture that I assume to be the local variant of a raised middle finger.

As Alex enters the customs building he slips the apparent ringleader a few banknotes—the price of trouble-free passage.

In the port, money changes hands again. First to persuade the operator of a reach-stacker (a giant forklift) to unload our container now—instead of whenever he might feel like it.

And when he goes to collect his return cargo, grain, he “tips” the foreman of the load crew to get to work straight away. After a few days in Mozambique, I understand why.

A truck weigh station operator who got nothing kept babbling on his cell phone as trucks lined up for the scale. Remarkably, Alex pays the “fees” out of his own pocket. They allow him to deliver his loads faster and, ultimately, make more trips. The extra money earned that way more than compensates for the cost.