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Farmers launch vigorous drive against tobacco cultivation in Swabi

By Bureau report
December 06, 2021

PESHAWAR: The tobacco growers have launched a vigorous campaign against the cultivation of so-called cash crop - tobacco - due to excessive exploitation of national and international companies and levying heavy taxes on the commodity by the government.

Farmers’ representatives, including Arif Khan, Liaqat Khan Yousafzai, Muhammad Ali Dagiwal, Ahmad Jan Kaka, Syed Inayat Ali Shah Bacha, Abid Ali, Asfandyar, Shahab Khan and others are spearheading the drive.

The leaders are holding meetings with tobacco farmers in almost all the villages and towns of the district to convince them not to cultivate the crop for at least a year.

Last year, the companies did not purchase the entire produce from the growers and a handsome quantity of tobacco is still lying in their godowns, which inflicted huge loss on the farmers.

When contacted via phone, the leaders said that growers in Swabi district and elsewhere in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were faced with a host of problems but the government’s relevant departments have failed to safeguard their interests.

The tobacco growers, they said, were the worst affected segment of the farmers’ community as they were being fleeced by the tobacco companies as well as the government departments, including the Pakistan Tobacco Board (PTB), without providing them any relief and facilities.

They said that tobacco products contributed Rs135 billion to the federal exchequer while Rs980 million went to the provincial kitty in the shape of tobacco development cess but the growers were still leading a life from hand to mouth.

“A question arises that why most of the tobacco growers are leading life below the poverty line while the crop is providing employment to thousands and contributing huge money to the federal and provincial coffers in taxes,” they said, adding that growers were bearing a whopping cost of crop production but got peanuts in return.

They complained that multinational companies used to give numerous facilities and other perks and privileges, including high salaries, health and residential accommodation for staff and their families but were reluctant to facilitate and reward the diligent farmers.

The farmers’ leaders vowed that campaign would be continued to convince the farmers through jirgas and meetings to boycott the tobacco cultivation.