‘Growers ready to switch crop, but unsure of govt aid’

‘Growers ready to switch crop, but unsure of govt aid’

If one cigarette costs Rs 11, consumers pay Rs 8 as the tax to the government, said J M Veerasangaiah, working president of the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, on Monday. Even if farmers want to go for an alternative crop, they are not sure if the government will support since the tax on tobacco brings huge revenue to the central and the state coffers, he said.

He was part of the roundtable on viable and sustainable alternative crop options for tobacco farmers, organised by the Healthcare Global Hospitals, World Health Organisation and think tank ‘Antardhwani’ here.

Market guarantee

Veerasangaiah said tobacco farmers were completely aware that the crop was harmful to not just humans, but also to the environment at large. Despite knowing this, the farmers continue to grow tobacco as it guarantees a market and the farmer is sure of returns, even if less.

He said after 2015, even tobacco farmers had started committing suicide for not getting the right price for their crops. The black market for tobacco thrives, selling cheap products, Veerasangaiah

Vineet Munish Gill, national programme officer (tobacco control), WHO country office, Delhi, said India was the third largest tobacco producing nation and second largest consumer of tobacco in the world.

Dr U S Vishal Rao, head and neck oncologist and member of the high-powered committee on tobacco control, Government of Karnataka, said farmers had to be introduced to an alternative crop, for which there is more demand. “Organic farmers can help companies by growing neem, ashwagandha etc,” he added. 

Currently, Karnataka grows tobacco on 1.5 lakh hectares. About 110 million tonnes of tobacco is produced per year, which requires not less than 5.5 lakh tonnes of firewood to process, roughly 25,000 acres of forest land is wiped out. One kg requires at least 6 kg of firewood for processing.

Tobacco is mainly grown in Mysuru belt, around Hunsur, Piriyapatna, besides Davangere and Ballari districts in the state.