Laiqh A Khan

Soaring price of the commodity appears to have changed their mind against surrendering licence

Tobacco is grown in 86,000 hectares of land in the State

Production this year likely to be 100 million kg

MYSORE: Anticipating a huge boom in the prices of tobacco, farmers in Karnataka are averse to giving up cultivation of tobacco, which the Government of India is planning to gradually phase out in keeping in with its obligations under the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

With the prices of tobacco soaring to an all-time high in the international market on account of the decline in global output of the commodity, tobacco farmers in the State are hoping for the prices to double during the coming auction season scheduled to begin from September.

“The word has already gone round among the farmers that the prices of tobacco, which fetched an average of Rs. 60 a kg last year, could well breach the Rs. 120-a-kg-mark. The compensation of Rs. 2.5 lakh per barn proposed to farmers to surrender their tobacco cultivation license may not find many takers,” president of the Karnataka FCV Tobacco Growers’ Association Javare Gowda told The Hindu.

Though the farmers were initially excited when they heard about the compensation package to be offered by the Tobacco Board to discontinue tobacco cultivation, the soaring prices of tobacco appeared to have changed their mind.

“The price of tobacco during the recently concluded auction season in Andhra Pradesh went up by 80 per cent from Rs. 47 a kg to Rs. 84 a kg. The quality of tobacco grown in Karnataka is considered to be far more superior to Andhra tobacco and enjoys a huge demand in the export market. Hence, the farmers will prefer to wait for the price offered for their produce this year and weigh their options before taking a decision,” Mr Gowda said.

Response

Though the response for the Tobacco Board’s compensation package was considered to be positive from the farmers of Andhra Pradesh, Mr. Gowda said the situation was different in Karnataka. “In Andhra Pradesh, tobacco cultivation is in the hands of big farmers, who own multiple barns, and face labour shortage. In Karnataka, a majority of tobacco farmers are small and marginal farmers, who themselves work in the fields,” he said.

During a telephonic chat with The Hindu, Chairman of Tobacco Board Suresh Babu did not rule out the possibility of international tobacco traders offering a lucrative price to discourage farmers from abandoning tobacco cultivation that would hit the global tobacco trade hard.

Visit

Mr. Babu is scheduled to visit tobacco growing regions of Karnataka in the first week of August for a feedback on the Board’s proposal to offer a compensation package to farmers, that includes not only payment of Rs 2.5 lakh for surrendering the tobacco cultivation license, but also assistance to the farmers to shift to alternative crops.

An estimated 41,000 farmers grow tobacco on 86,000 hectares of land in Karnataka spread across the rain-fed region of H.D. Kote, Hunsur, K.R. Nagar and Periyapatna taluks of Mysore district, besides Arakalgud in Hassan. About 100 million kg of tobacco is expected to grown in Karnataka this year.

Alternative crop

Meanwhile, studies carried out by Central Tobacco Research Institute (CTRI), situated at Hunsur near here, during the last few days have concluded that there is no suitable alternative crop to tobacco in the rain-fed areas of the region from the remuneration point of view.

“Though a variety of crops including commercial crop such as cotton can be grown in the area, the economic benefits from the crop will not be able to match the remuneration commanded by tobacco,” Senior scientist and Head CTRI M.M. Shenoi said.

Hence, CTRI has come up with an Integrated Farming System Module that envisages cropping system as well as practice of animal husbandry and pisciculture. “It is a holisitic approach. The farmers can grow not only crops, but also rear cows and sheep, besides create ponds and breed fish. This will promise better returns for the farmers,” Mr. Shenoi said and added that trials on the approach had already yielded positive results in the CTRI’s demonstration farms.

More In: KARNATAKA | NATIONAL