SWABI: The representatives of tobacco companies have launched a joint campaign to encourage growers in Swabi district to cultivate flue-cured Virginia (FCV) and white patta tobacco and take steps for improving the quality while assuring them that there would be no problem of price or surplus crop, officials and farmers told Dawn here on Thursday.

It has been learnt that representatives of Pakistan Tobacco Company (PTC) and Philip Morris International (PMI) Pakistan, the two leading multinational tobacco purchasing companies, have jointly held meetings with the growers at Yar Hussain, Sodher, Ooch, Khawar, Jalsai and Jamla, to motivate them for increasing the tobacco production.

“It is for the first time that the two companies have jointly organised meetings with farmers of different regions. We feel that unlike past they need more tobacco production in the upcoming year,” said Bakht Sher of Sodher village.

The growers said that leaf managers of the companies told them that they would purchase the crop from them on higher prices than the government rates.

The Federal Commerce Ministry and Pakistan Tobacco Board (PTB) have set the minimum price of the FCV at Rs159 per kilogramme for upcoming year against Rs141 for the current year.

The sources said that the PTC requirements increased from 31 million kilogrammes of FCV to 38 million kilogrammes while the PMI’s needs jumped from 18 million kilogrammes to 24 million kilogrammes.

When contacted, a leaf manager said that the meetings were aimed at encouraging growers to cultivate more tobacco. He said that the companies feared they might fell short of procuring the required quota because a number of tobacco growers had been switching to wheat cultivation in Swabi.

The growers were told that the purchasing companies had increased tobacco quota by 20 per cent for the upcoming year.

The manager claimed that they would purchase tobacco from the farmers at higher prices compared to previous years.

However, he said that the growers should grow the recommend varieties.

When contacted, PTC leaf manager Jabeen Qamar said that tobacco was the only crop in the country which had received legal protection and if the growers wanted to increase their production they should use modern technology.

“We are ready to guide the growers that how best they could use the technology to increase production, improve quality and get profit,” he said.

Abdul Wahid, PMI regional manager, said that they had recommended the spade-28 and K-399 varieties. It was agreed that the farmers, companies and the business community would work for improving the crop quality.

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