Farmer's Voice

Due to restrictions which ‘who’ tries to impose 200,000 Tobacco Growers may lose their livelihood

24_Hours_Daily.jpgThe State budget may end up without BGN 2 B if it does not protect the tobacco sector

The livelihood of 200,000 Bulgarians is at risk due to the directives of the World Health Organization (WHO) to seek alternatives to tobacco growing. 400,000 people from the sector in Europeare also threatened. Worldwide, the restrictions would affect 30 million.

This was explained during the Third International Forum of Oriental Tobacco Growers in Plovdiv. It was organized by Bulgartabac. Representatives from Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Oman and Kirghistan were present.

The head of the National Organization of Tobacco Growers Tsvetan Filev explained the organization does not approve of enforcing alternative crops. Attempts have been made in tobacco-growing regions of Bulgaria, but were unsuccessful. He also pointed out the sector brings about BGN 2 M to the state budget each year, in taxes, excise duty and VAT. Unless the state protects the sector, it will lose this income. Another negative effect would be the demographic collapse in these regions, which has already begun. Qualified tobacco workers and their families are moving to Greece. Filev explained people involved with tobacco growing all over the world are ready to defend it with protests.

The participants in the forum attacked articles 17 and 18 of the framework convention of tobacco control of WHO. The convention obligates the parties in the contract to seek alternative crops to tobacco, without pointing out what they might be. The CEO of the International Tobacco Growers Association Antonio Abrunhosa commented there is not a single WHO report explaining which crop should be grown in which tobacco-growing region.

He pointed out the contraction of the sector has an indirect effect on other businesses, and gave as an example Portugal, where 1,600 tobacco growers losing their work resulted in numerous bakeries, supermarkets, craftsmen and accountants losing theirs.

The President of the International Tobacco Growers Association Francois van der Merwe said if WHO wishes to regulate tobacco growers, it must speak to them first. He brought up the fact that two years ago WHO attempted to impose heavy restrictions on tobacco growers, but failed as a result of their opposition.

(24 Hours Daily)