Farmers find tobacco growing financially more rewarding

Tobacco Field

In spite of controversies around the tobacco cultivation, growers in Bangladesh consider it to be financially more profitable than other crops, as outlined by a review released lately by the Policy Research Institute (PRI).

The mean income of tobacco farmers is close to 30 per cent higher than non-tobacco farmers, the review stated mostly based on field-level study.

Tobacco has become a prime cash crop in a number of regions such as Kurigram, Lalmonirhat and Nilphamari, particularly helping the poor during the ‘monga’ period, the review mentioned.

Nielsen Bangladesh gathered and compiled the field level main information from the tobacco cultivating areas of Rangpur, Kushtia and Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). Review included farmers who are growing tobacco and as well farmers growing crops other than tobacco.

The PRI review stated that export quality tobacco cultivation has created employment for many farmers in the tobacco growing regions. In addition, another 100,000 jobs may have been generated in tobacco export-related activities, the review said.

The optimistic profits from tobacco cultivation have been as well shown in the growth of raw tobacco exports from Bangladesh. In the fiscal 2009-10, the tobacco export profits generated more than $50 million and the amount raised to more than $80 million in the next fiscal (2010-11).

Nevertheless, imposition of 10 percent tax on the export of tobacco in the FY11 budget has influenced adversely the country’s tobacco export. The worldwide blue chip cigarette firms intend to remove Bangladesh from the number of supply chain because of constant policy changes. As a result, the PRI review said, tobacco, being the second most crucial agricultural export after jute, may even fade from the Bangladesh’s export basket.

The review describing the farmers’ preference to tobacco cultivation over other crops said that the growers in the regions pointed out above cultivate tobacco as the crop produces earnings higher than other crops and they get the money at one-go under buyback guarantee provided by cigarette manufacturers. Furthermore, more than two-third tobacco farmers noted that tobacco did not contend with the manufacturing of other food crops.

The prevalence of poverty, the filed review unveiled, is much higher (47.5 per cent) among the non-tobacco farmers than the tobacco farmers (29.25 per cent).

Unlike widespread claims of health risk regarding the cultivation of tobacco, about 89 percent answerers covering both tobacco and non-tobacco farmers said that tobacco cultivation and green leaf handling do not lead to any disease. But, the review said more analysis is needed to find out why a section of tobacco farmers suffer from skin disease and respiratory problems.

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