Delayed official tobacco price hindering its cultivation

Tobacco support price delayed
By Tahir Ali

The Pakistan Tobacco Board has advised growers not to cultivate the crop prior to entering into contract with a tobacco company of their choice to avoid problems in the sale of their produce.

However, farmers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are still awaiting announcement of official price of tobacco, which is keeping them away so far from going for the crop this year.

Tobacco companies are required to execute agreements on the purchase of flue-cured Virginia tobacco with growers by December 31 each year. However, this has not happened as yet.

“Notification of official price is necessary for finalizing tobacco contract between farmers and companies. Seedbeds are being prepared for the crop as of now which will be sown after two to three months. But who would go for growing tobacco when one is not sure of better returns for the crop,” says Haji Niamat Shah, senior vice-present of the Anjuman-i-Kashtkaran KP.

“As per MLO 487 farmers should be informed of official minimum price and weighted average price (WaP) before the end of October but it has been delayed,” said another farmer.

It was delayed because some areas had to be covered again after complaints that these were left out from consultations, says an official. “We have completed the interviews with farmers and are now assessing and analyzing the data to determine the cost of production and eventually the minimum price meant for tobacco over the purchase target of the companies and the Wap meant for tobacco within their purchase targets,” said the official.

Shah urged farmers to grow only the recommended hybrid varieties. “Last year we requested the companies to buy tobacco and promised that farmers would not grow the non-recommended varieties next year. Unless our farmers produce quality tobacco, we cannot get good returns locally or in the international market,” he added.

Companies usually provide hybrid seeds as per farmers’ requirements, but quite a few growers avoid doing so. A farmer said tobacco companies did not provide hybrid seeds free of cost and around Rs1,000 was charged for seed needed for one acre.

The official however defended tobacco companies. They did not take a single rupee from for hybrid seeds and supplied these free of cost to growers. “Growers may have to bear the cost of hybrid seeds when the seeds are in shortage and the stock with the companies are exhausted,” he added.

Last year, the minimum price was Rs104 and Wap Rs112 per kg. Tobacco companies gave up to Rs125 for both recommended and non-recommended varieties. But the growers now wanted better prices.

“Tobacco is an important cash crop which earned the country around Rs52 billion in taxes last year. The government and PTB should take into account the enormous increase in prices of farm inputs/services and cigarettes and fix rates at Rs200/kg. I think anything less than that will simply be unrealistic and unaffordable for farmers,” Shah said.

The PTB said the 23 tobacco companies would buy 72.95 million kg of Rustica, white patta and flue-cured Virginia tobacco( around 67mn kg) in the coming year.

“Tobacco companies earn billions each year. They need to reward the hands helping them earn such huge profits each year.

Increase in cost of inputs, rate of inflation, global tobacco trends and increases in prices of other agricultural commodities and raw materials warrant that tobacco prices should be sufficiently increased but tobacco farmers are denied fair prices,” growers complain.

The province accounts for 98 per cent of FCV production and grows the best Virginia tobacco in Charsadda, Mardan, Swabi, Mansehra, Buner, Swat and Dir.

The KP assembly last December had unanimously demanded that control of tobacco be handed over to the province and allowed to export its tobacco crop.

Per hectare yield of FCV in the province is around 2,600-2,700kg, while Punjab produces up to 3,419 kg per hectare of dark air-cured Virginia.


About Tahir Ali Khan (Official)
I am an academic, columnist, and a social worker.

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