Tobacco growers for limit on Karnataka crop size

GUNTUR, JUNE 4. Following failure of the farmers' representatives on the Tobacco Board to get the crop size of Flue Cured Tobacco (FCV) for Karnataka limited to 55 million kg in the current year during the Board meeting on Thursday, they have sent a memorandum to the Agriculture Secretary, S.P. Singh, requesting him to espouse their cause.

Seeking a scientific methodology for arriving at the crop size, the Andhra Pradesh farmers led by Chunduru Ranga Rao, wanted it to be limited to dependable demand both overseas and internal, based on the average of the past three years. It was decided to send minutes of the meeting to the Ministry of Commerce for its final decision.

The State Agriculture Secretary, meanwhile, has promised the farmers to talk to the Chief Minister, Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy, and brief him so that he could put the State farmers' side before the Centre while the final decision on this was taken.

Alleging that the trading community was driving the tobacco sector into deregulation mode for their ulterior motive of buying tobacco at lower rates to enhance their profit, they demanded amendment to section 28 of the Tobacco Board Act so that it gets power to penalise the trading community and growers to control the crop size for providing remunerative price to the farmers.

Mr. Ranga Rao told reporters here on Friday that the Tobacco Board must enter into market stabilisation act through market intervention by creating a Stabilisation Corporation and fund with a seed money of Rs. 100 crores. The Ministry of Commerce must immediately accord permission to the Board for market intervention as suggested in Thursday's meeting, he said. It has also sought compensation for the State farmers, who had incurred an expenditure of Rs. 25,000 each for shifting their barns and wanted the Central Government to ensure that unauthorised barns were penalised in Karnataka as they were intending to regularise 31,500 of them badly affecting the industry.

The total demand for the Indian FCV Tobacco was in the range of 181 million kg to 194 million kg with an export demand of 114 million kg to 124 million kg and a domestic demand of 67 million kg to 70 million kg. The purchase price for the cigarette manufacturers was Rs. 33 per kg in 1991, which remained the same in 2003 also, whereas the profit increased from Rs. 170 crores to Rs. 1,800 crores, he pointed out. This, he said reflected the exploitation of growers by the manufacturers and the trading community.

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