Tobacco farmers on a high

Bouyed by the record prices in the West, tobacco farmers in East and West Godavari districts are going overboard and producing
surplus crop in spite of repeated pleas by the Tobacco Board to stick to the authorised crop size.

In fact, hoping to get handsome returns, some 300 farmers of West Godavari alone have placed orders for luxury cars in the past few months. “We are unable to meet the demands of the rich ryots to deliver the vehicles in time,” an automobile showroom owner in Tadepalligudem said.

With the tobacco season ending on July 20, the farmers are going in for the kill by cultivating the crop on a large scale. The crop is prominently grown in Jangareddygudem, Koyyalagudem, Gopalapuram and Devarapalli in WG and at Seethanagaram and Rajahmundry rural mandals in EG districts.

Enthused by the bumper prices on the auction floors in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, the farmers are growing the crop in 250 hectares this season though the board had stipulated the crop size to 177 hectares. “The reason being the Virginia tobacco grown in WG district that fetches a good price in Zimbabwe, China and some other countries,” a rich farmer said.

The craze for tobacco has reached such a high that the farmers are not thinking twice about buying importe../../../2009/07/d_seed_from_Brazil_which_costs_Rs_1_lakh_per_kilo.___8220.css;The seed varieties RGH-04, PVH-03 and PVH-09 are suitable only for northern ligh soil (NLS) of West Godavari,” a tobacco expert said. Also, the farmers are not bothered about the huge license fee of Rs 6.5 lakh, sources said.

The highest price of Rs 165 per kg was realised on the five auction floors in WG last season much higher than Karnataka auction rates. Summing up the trend, V Manmadha Rao, regional manager of Tobacco Board, said the farmers are in no mood to reduce production.

“We are trying to educate the farmers about the fluid international market situation. Since China is growing a huge amount of tobacco, we will be in trouble if our farmers release more crop into the global market,” he observed. But he hastened to add that because of the turmoil in Zimbabwe where tobacco output has fallen drastically, the demand for Indian tobacco in the last two years has been high.

That the tobacco craze has really caught up in both Godavari districts goes without saying as some of the farmers have converted their paddy fields for tobacco cultivation. Some others even resorted to uprooting new oilpalm gardens to make way for tobacco. Ironically, there was a campaign for growing alternative crops to tobacco in West Godavari.

“Despite the apprehensions in the global market, we believe tobacco will fetch us good revenues since there are always more takers for the commercial crop,” a farmer of Gopalapuram not wishing to be named said. According to WHO guidelines, tobacco output should be halved by 2020.
© Copyright: Indiatimes

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