Laiqh A.Khan

Despite rise in global demand, it remains at 100 million kg

‘Decision taken to ensure stability in commodity price’

Tobacco Board ignored our appeal, says Javare Gowda

BANGALORE: Despite the global demand for tobacco grown in the State, the Tobacco Board has refused to yield to the growers’ clamour for increasing the ceiling on the crop size, which remains at 100 million kg for 2009-10.

According to Tobacco Board officials, a decision was a taken at a recent meeting in Bangalore to stick to the 2008-09 crop size to ensure stability in the prices of tobacco, which reached an all-time high, riding on a rise in global demand of the commodity.

The average price of tobacco rose by almost 90 per cent from Rs. 59.63 per kg during 2007-08 to a record Rs. 109.97 per kg last year. Though the crop size was fixed at 100 million kg, the total yield of tobacco in the State was 113.99 kg, according to Tobacco Board officials.

Flue Cured Variety (FCV) Tobacco Growers’ Association president Javare Gowda told The Hindu that the association had urged the board to increase the crop size by at least 10 million kg. “Even the 14 million kg of excess tobacco grown was purchased at a good price. The board ignored our plea,” he said.

The Tobacco Board’s decision against yielding to the demand of the growers’ association comes at a time when India is under pressure from the international community to gradually reduce tobacco cultivation in line with its commitment to the Framework Convention of Tobacco Control (FCTC), which seeks to halve tobacco output in Karnataka by 2020.

The Tobacco Board officials said that any move to increase the crop size would lead to unauthorised cultivation of the regulated crop. “If the ceiling on the crop is increased, farmers will expand the area of cultivation and grow more than the allotted quota, which would adversely impact the price of the commodity in the market,” an official said.

However, Mr. Javare Gowda wondered why the Tobacco Board, which increased the crop size for tobacco in Andhra Pradesh, did not bestow a similar favour on farmers in Karnataka. The crop size in Andhra Pradesh went up from 165 million kg last year to 170 million kg this year.

Mr. Javare Gowda, who was earlier a member of the Tobacco Board as a growers’ representative, said that Karnataka lost out in the race for an increase in crop size to Andhra Pradesh as two out of three growers’ representatives were disqualified by the court. But, Tobacco Board officials have denied Mr. Javare Gowda’s charge. “Karnataka is represented in the board not just by growers’ representatives. Even officials, including Karnataka’s Director of Agriculture, is a member,” an official said.