(Bloomberg) -- Zimbabwe is considering utilizing gas to cure tobacco, the nation’s biggest cash-crop, as part of an effort to curb deforestation.

Most of the southern African nation’s tobacco is currently cured using firewood, and it wants to start using gas as an alternative, ideally during the upcoming harvesting season, according to Chelesani Moyo, the spokeswoman for the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board, the industry regulator. 

An initial pilot project is being planned to “develop a facility which will cure at least 50 hectares of tobacco at the same time,” and allow for multiple farmers to simultaneously cure their product, she said. The association is looking for gas-technology companies to partner with in setting up the facility. 

The government estimates 262,000 hectares (647,416 acres) of forest is destroyed annually, with tobacco curing accounting for 15% to 20% of the losses. Harvested tobacco is hung in large barns and smoldering fires are burnt continuously for between three days and 10 weeks to cure it. 

Read: Zimbabwe Eyes Switch to Cannabis as Tobacco Demand Seen Waning



©2022 Bloomberg L.P.