Farmer's Voice

Daniel Green on his first quarter as President of ITGA: "The ITGA’s renewed focus on sustainability of growers is timely and necessary"

It is a great honor to be writing this first update since being selected to serve as President at the AGM in September.   I have enjoyed these first few months and am looking forward to working with the ITGA members to accomplish great things on behalf of the tobacco growers we represent.

Our most recent AGM was a very significant one, with the approval of our new strategy with the clearly defined goal of focusing on issues that truly affect grower sustainability.  To me, this means simply supporting measures that ensure responsible farmers can provide a good life for their families from their farming operations.  Most importantly, this includes profitable tobacco production, but it must also include efforts to support other activities that supplement their tobacco production and improve their quality of life.

Upon the completion of marketing one crop and with the start of the next, it has become the normal practice for tobacco growers to remark on what a challenging year it has been, and to express their sincere hope for a better year with the next crop.  Unfortunately, many growers have come to realize the fact that challenge and change are the regular characteristics of growing tobacco and they rightly now expect the next crop to be even more challenging than the last.  The ITGA's renewed focus on sustainability of growers is timely and necessary.  We must ensure that all industry participants, to include local, national and international policy makers understand the unique challenges facing tobacco growers and support measures that provide growers the opportunity to be successful.

It was amazing to me to witness the animosity toward tobacco growers firsthand at the FCTC COP7 in India in November.   I want to commend our Indian members for their hard work and efforts to organize the farmers and to seek participation of farmers and industry stakeholders in the FCTC discussions.  Hundreds of farmers showed up in a peaceful demonstration to bring much deserved attention to their livelihoods and their contributions to society, only to be forcefully turned away by a head of the FCTC Secretariat that referred to farmers as "manipulative" people with a "conflict of interest".  The insistence of the health advocates to avoid discussion and interactions with the growers, especially in light of Article 17's requirement to seek viable diversification alternatives, demonstrates a great deal of ignorance about the plight of growers and results in missed opportunities.  We must continue to insist on our involvement in this process.

From the market perspective, we are facing some headwinds reaching a balance in worldwide supply and demand.  Even in light of unfavorable weather conditions shrinking the total volume of tobacco produced in many markets over the past two crops, the market for both flue-cured and burley tobacco remains soft.  For example, in the USA, excessive rainfall caused the 2016 burley crop to total 30 percent less than expected, yet the industry is requesting even less hectares to be planted in 2017.  Meanwhile, one of the world's largest tobacco companies, with the most successful flue-cured and burley blended cigarette brands, is touting their transformation from a combustible cigarettes company to a reduced-risk products focused company, mainly through the distribution of new "heat-not-burn" products to replace traditional cigarettes.  The success of these products in Japan is indisputable and has been substantially more successful than the "e-liquid" products that are prevalent in other markets.  While it is yet to be seen how these products will grow as they are introduced in the world's largest cigarette markets, without a doubt, they require much less tobacco than traditional cigarettes and will contribute to falling demand for leaf tobacco.  On the bright side, they do require more leaf tobacco than the "e-liquid" products.

These are all complicated and rapidly evolving issues that will be of much interest to growers as we go forward.  We have many interesting and concerning issues to discuss as we begin having our regional meetings.  I hope to see many of you at the regional meetings and I plan to attend whenever possible to discuss how we can best react to these challenges and how we can be proactive in changing things to ensure the success of the tobacco growers.