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Tobacco growers oppose proposed shifting of purchase centre, slam non-payment in Swabi

By Our Correspondent
May 21, 2018

SWABI: The tobacco growers in Yar Hussain area on Sunday opposed the proposed shifting of lone leaf purchase centre and condemned the nonpayment by the companies for the last year’s produce, vowing to launch a campaign to protest the ‘economic murder’ of farmers in Swabi district.

Speaking at a protest meeting at Tael village, the tobacco growers, including Wazir Muhammad advocate, Muhammad Ayaz Khan, Saadullah Khan, Sultan Muhammad, Afandyar, Kamil Khan, Ahmed Ali Khan, Tariq Anwar, Abdur Rehman and others said that the multinational company had planned to shift the lone depot of tobacco leaf purchase in the area to somewhere else and was going to buy the produce through brokers and agents.

They said the plan to buy the tobacco produce indirectly was tantamount to exploiting the growers by shifting huge profit to middlemen and agents and depriving the poor farmers of their just earnings from this lone cash crop.

They vowed that interest of the farmers would be protected and exploitative tactics of the companies would be resisted at all costs.

A large number of farmers, tenants and workers associated with the tobacco depots in the area attended the meeting.

The speakers said that various tobacco companies, including the Philip Morris Pakistan, had already shut down several leaf purchase centres in Yar Hussain, Yaqoobi, Maira, Lahor, Ambar and Charbagh in Swabi district, Marhati in Nowshera, Shergarh and Katlang in Mardan, Mandani and Sardheri in Charsadda and several centres in Buner and Mansehra districts some two years ago and abandoned the practice of direct purchase of the tobacco produce from the growers.

“The closure of depots has rendered thousands of skilled and unskilled workers jobless. It has also deprived thousands of families of their hard earned income from tobacco crop,” a farmer Ayaz Khan told the gathering.

The protesting growers also came hard on the companies for not paying their outstanding dues for the produce they purchased last year.

They said the poor farmers were facing numerous problems due to nonpayment by the companies.

The protesting growers said the growers were not even able to bear the cost of the current tobacco crop because of the nonpayment.

Other speakers said that militancy and terrorism had already hit the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa hard and rendering thousands of employees would now prove a major source to contribute to the menace in the region.

They also said that the tobacco companies were not ready to include the farmers’ representatives in the consultative meetings routinely held to discuss the cost of production (CoP) and fix demand and propose rates for the produce.

The representatives of farmers said the companies were fleecing the poor growers on one pretext or the other.

The speakers also condemned the role of Pakistan Tobacco Board (PTB), saying the board had become a silent spectator to the whole scenario of exploitation of growers in the district.

They asked the government to take note of the situation or else they would launch a protest movement for their rights.