Monday July 15, 2024

Billion tree tsunami to lose 25% to tobacco roasting

By Shahina Maqbool
February 26, 2020

Islamabad : While tobacco farming itself is depleting forestland with an approximately 470 square kilometre area under tobacco cultivation, its roasting/curing for manufacturing of cigarettes is playing further havoc with the country’s annual firewood production.

According to the Pakistan Tobacco Board—a legal entity under the Federal Ministry of Food Security—there are 35,000 barns in the country to roast 106 million kilograms of tobacco produced annually. Each barn consumes at least 1,000 kilograms (1 ton) of firewood in each roasting cycle lasting 8-10 days, completing a minimum of 10 cycles after each harvesting season i.e., every year. This amounts to burning 3.5 million tons of firewood annually for tobacco curing. Pakistan’s annual firewood production stands at 12.4 million tons, a quarter of which is going up in smoke in these tobacco roasting barns.

According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey, an average smoker in Pakistan consumes 4,500 cigarettes annually. With around 2 million regular smokers, the figure soars to 90 billion cigarette sticks consumed per annum. Giving a margin of 10% illicit tobacco products, 80 billion cigarettes manufactured in the country need 4 billion packs (20 cigarettes each) to carry. These crush-proof packs are made of tree bark, each tree yielding its bark to get a board for 15 packs. The calculated risk is 25 million trees felled annually to make cigarette packs from outer layers of trees.

Of the 80 billion cigarette sticks, at least 50 billion are lit by matchsticks, again manufactured from wood. Burning cigarette ends and matchsticks is a major cause of jungle fires perpetrated by the jungle mafia to hide their massive thefts.

The irony of the entire activity, which is so inimical to the environment, is that the Pakistan Tobacco Board has prepared a PC-1 costing Rs50 million to the exchequer for reforestation, thereby admitting that the industry is causing deforestation and the forests need to be replaced at the government’s expense!