Federation of All India Farmer Associations (FAIFA) on Friday expressed concern over high taxation, stringent regulations, low crop production, lack of export incentives and the menace of smuggled cigarettes and urged policy makers to take steps to lessen problems plaguing them.
The tobacco growers from Prakasam and Nellore districts attended a meet in Ongole on the occasion of the World Tobacco Growers Day on Friday.
Tobacco Board member and FAIFA Executive member Mareddy Subrahmanyeswara Reddy lamented that growers faced losses to the tune of over ₹6,000 crore in the wake of a drop in Flue-Cured Virginia (FCV) tobacco production, from 325 million kg in 2014-15 to 180 million kg in 2020-21.
Rising illicit cigarette trade in the wake of higher and punitive taxation on domestic cigarettes added to their woes, he said, adding that illicit cigarette market in India had doubled from 13.5 billion sticks in 2006 to 30 billion sticks in 2021. Stringent measures to curb the menace was the need of the hour, he emphasised.
The association’s vice-president Gadde Seshagiri Rao urged the Centre to help FCV growers meet the international standards as the sector provided direct and indirect employment to more than 47.5 million people. He pointed to studies conducted by the Central Tobacco Research Institute (CTRI) that showed that there was no viable economic alternative to tobacco to farmers in the drought-prone region.
Its General Secretary Murali Babu said though WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) stressed the need to balance socio-economic dependence of tobacco cultivation and tobacco control activities, anti-tobacco activists were pushing policy makers to take extreme decisions without giving due regard to the recommended stance of calibrated approach to its cultivation and the needs of tobacco farming community.