We estimate that we handle between 35% and 45% of the annual production of flue-cured and burley tobaccos in Africa. Our tobacco leaf operations procure burley, flue-cured, dark-fired and dark air-cured tobaccos from five African countries; Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
Even though tobacco utilizes less than 3% of the agricultural land in each of these countries, it is by far the most important export crop in four of them. We work with approximately 200,000 contracted farmers, mostly smallholders, across the region and we also buy from the auction floors in Malawi and in Zimbabwe.
In addition to the training and support we provide to our contracted farmers through our agronomy, forestry and labour technicians, we are also attentive to the needs of the communities where we operate, and we are both proactive and responsive in engagement in many forms. We concentrate mainly on infrastructure, education and opportunities for youth, and water, sanitation and health so that our work has a ripple effect in the communities.
We are committed to upholding the principles of Universal, and our policies reflect it. Our training enables our contracted growers to continually improve the quality of their production and their standards of living.
Gary grew up in Zimbabwe acquiring a good understanding of the crop, how it is handled and processed and the international market for leaf tobacco. He went on to earn a degree in Agricultural Economics and has since enjoyed 30 years of industry experience. He has worked in several growing regions of the world and in most of the African tobacco producing countries.