Farmer's Voice

Leaf Sales in Andra Pradesh reach 190 mn Kgs

The Virginia tobacco auctions in Andhra Pradesh, India, concluded November 2nd with 190 million kgs sold at an average price of Rs 93 (US$ 1.42) per kg. The average price was Rs 118 (US$ 1.80) per kg last year. Over 60 million kgs of the crop was low-grade leaf, while 74 million was medium grade and the remainder was bright grade tobacco. Andhra Pradesh's authorized crop size for 2014-15 was 172 million kgs. The crop size for 2015-16 has been cut to 120 million kgs due to market conditions. In the State of Karnataka, where auctions are in the early stages, 7 million kgs of the crop has been sold at an average price of Rs 140 (US$ 2.14) per kg. That State's crop output is estimated to be 83 million kgs, compared with the authorized crop size of 100 million kgs (Hindu Business Line 11/2).

Commenting on the Indian government's directive to leaf growers in Andhra Pradesh to cut tobacco cultivation by 52 million kgs next year, the Federation of All-India Farmers' Association (FAIFA) on October 29th said the government's plan to curb tobacco product consumption nationwide should not be at the expense of leaf growers and that before asking farmers to leave tobacco cultivation, the government must identify alternative crops that are as remunerative as tobacco to enable a smooth transition. Before formulating a "well-balanced" tobacco control policy, the government must consult all stakeholders, FAIFA said. The government must also take action to check cigarette smuggling, the association added (Hindu 10/30).

Growers of flue-cured Virginia tobacco in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka threatened to launch agitation against the order, starting December 1st, and go to court seeking "equitable taxation," compensation, and a CBI enquiry against the "hidden agenda" of foreign-funded anti-tobacco activists. Displaying smuggled cigarette packs at a press conference on October 29th, the Federation of All India Farmer Association said many of the packs, which entered India from Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Dubai, United Arab Emirates, did not carry any pictorial warning or text messages. Holding higher taxes and the graphic warnings law responsible for the 31% annual growth of smuggled tobacco products in the Indian market, Chengal Reddy, chairman of the Consortium of Indian Farmers' Association, said "for the first time in 100 years, 22 tobacco farmers have committed suicide in the last one year. Of these, 15 suicides were in Andhra Pradesh and seven in Karnataka." It is unfortunate that despite these suicides, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not met even a single farmer delegation in the 18 months of his administration, Reddy added. B V Javare Gowda, a grower from Karnataka, said, "[f]oreign powers would like to see India converting from a tobacco exporter to a net importer." Noting that India "is the second largest exporter of quality tobacco earning Rs. 6,000 crore [60 billion] (US$ 915.2 mn) [in] foreign exchange every year," G Seshagiri Rao, who cultivates sugarcane and tobacco in Andhra Pradesh, said reduction in leaf output in the State "will make farmers lose livelihoods and destroy our export opportunity" (Business Line10/30).