Andhra Pradesh

Former MP bats for reforms in tobacco sector

Photo for representation.

Photo for representation.   | Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

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Time is ripe to review the auction system in the country, says Y. Sivaji

Former Member of Parliament Yelamanchili Sivaji on Friday said that the time is ripe for structural reforms in the tobacco auction system in the country.

Addressing tobacco farmers and traders at the Tobacco Board Formation Day celebrations at the Indian Tobacco Association Hall on Friday, Dr. Sivaji said that the lack of a competitive market, price stabilisation and monopoly of a single trading company is continuing to haunt tobacco farmers.

“Tobacco farmers need a marketing fund or a marketing corporation to deal with international markets. The Government of India needs to welcome foreign investment in tobacco and the time has come to review the auction system and bring in reforms,” Dr. Sivaji said at the meeting.

A medical doctor-turned-political activist and a farmer leader, Dr. Sivaji said that the Tobacco Board was set up in Guntur thanks to the collective efforts of growers and traders. An amendment to the Tobacco Board Act was introduced in Parliament in 1978, but was withdrawn after severe opposition from farmers and peasant leaders like Acharya N.G. Ranga.

The tobacco sector has withstood several challenges in the following years, more so the market crisis after Russia downsized imports from 25 million kg to 14 million kg. The uncertainty in markets has forced the farmers to sell tobacco at low prices, with many growers shifting to other crops.

In 2000-2001, the growers declared a crop holiday to protest against the low prices but it has done good in the long term, as it managed to draw the attention of the government to the plight of farmers. Prakasam farmers have switched over to Bengal Gram and cultivated over three lakh acres.

“I made an appeal to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2000 to set up a market stabilisation fund but the proposal is yet to materialise,” said Dr. Sivaji.

Later, the tobacco sector witnessed the biggest crisis in 2014-2015 which was due to an increase in production and lack of quality. Nine farmers committed suicide as the markets collapsed due to low prices. Later, the Central and State governments paid ₹22.40 crore as compensation to farmers, said Dr. Sivaji.

Tobacco Board chairman Y. Raghunatha Babu and Executive Director K. Sunitha spoke. Awards were given to growers and traders who followed the best agricultural practices in tobacco cultivation.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2020 7:09:44 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/former-mp-bats-for-reforms-in-tobacco-sector/article30473597.ece

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