Andhra Pradesh

Cut down costs to stay afloat, tobacco growers told

Tobacco Board Chairman Y. Raghunatha Babu interacting with the growers at Nandanavanam village in Prakasam district.

Tobacco Board Chairman Y. Raghunatha Babu interacting with the growers at Nandanavanam village in Prakasam district.   | Photo Credit: Kommuri Srinivas

‘Labour cost itself accounts for 50% of the total cultivation cost’

The sunset crop of tobacco will be on its fag end if the growers do not resort to cost-cutting measures in the cultivation of the labour-intensive crop, especially in Prakasam and Nellore districts.

Articulating this view, Tobacco Board Chairman Y. Raghunatha Babu said in a conversation with The Hindu that “there will no future for the crop unless and until the farmers take a conscious decision to cut down costs in every possible way to compete in the highly competitive global market.”

The labour cost at various stages, which included planting, curing, grading, and baling, accounts for about 50% of the total cultivation cost of about ₹1 lakh per acre in the traditional growing areas, where tobacco is cultivated with no other alternative under rain-fed conditions, especially in the drought-prone areas in both the districts.

Making things worse, the labour cost has gone up by 25% this year when compared to the previous year when the farmers struggled to ensure irrigation in view of the prolonged dry spell.

There is also a growing pressure from health activists to phase out tobacco cultivation under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).


“Mechanisation of tobacco cultivation has not been up to the mark when compared to the other crops, with a majority of farmers still continuing to grow the crop in the same way as their forefathers,” Mr. Raghunatha Babu noted, and suggested that the farmers go for mechanical planters.

Curing efficiency should be improved by adding additional insulation to the flue-cured tobacco barns, he observed during an interaction with a group of growers at Nandavanam village, where he stayed overnight (Palle Nidra) to establish rapport with the farmers and better appreciate the various issues faced by them in cultivating the main commercial crop.

It was found during studies that farmers could save up to 25% on fuel during curing by going in for glass wool roof insulation and Venturi furnace insulation in the barns.


The usage of wood should come down, said the Chairman, who impressed upon the growers to plant saplings to meet at least a part of the firewood needed for the barns, the primary processing unit of tobacco.

He, however, felt that switching over to solar barns completely as in some developed countries for more precision to tobacco curing process might not be practical given the local conditions.

“The Tobacco Board is ready to arrange free of cost digging of farm ponds in part of each farmer’s land by dovetailing with the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme(MG-NREGS) so that they can ensure life-saving irrigation for their crop at times of dry spell,” he explained during an interaction with another group of farmers at Singamanenipalli village, near Voletivaripalem.

They should also compulsorily stick to the crop size fixed by the board as they would not be able to take advantage of the global demand-supply situation in case of any violation.

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2020 12:20:30 AM |

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