PESHAWAR: Tobacco growers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have warned of starting an agitation drive if the multinational companies failed to accept their demands about purchase of the harvest at reasonable rates within three days.

Speaking at a press conference here on Monday, Tobacco Growers Association of Pakistan central president Liaqat Yousafzai said a huge stock of tobacco harvest in different parts of the province was lying unsold, but the multinational companies were not ready to purchase the entire crop from growers. He termed it a conspiracy against small farmers.

Flanked by senior vice president of Anjuman-i-Kashtkaran Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Niamat Shah Roghani, Kashtkar Coordination Council vice president Mohammad Ali and president tobacco dealers association Arsala Khan, Mr Yousafzai said the tobacco support price had been fixed at Rs178 per kilogramme, but it was also not fully implemented. He demanded that the price be increased to Rs250 per kg.

He said the small growers could not store the crop due to their weak financial position, and urged the companies to pick the entire stock lying with growers at reasonable price to ease their sufferings. He recalled that an agreement was also reached between tobacco companies and farmers in that regard, but it was not followed accordingly.

Mr Yousafzai also demanded spending of the 10 per cent revenue generated through the central excise duty on tobacco growing areas.

He demanded of the government to withdraw the five per cent advance/withholding tax on tobacco. He said tobacco should be declared as a crop. He said the crackdown on trucks and vehicles carrying tobacco leafs should be stopped. He demanded merger of all tobacco taxes into cigarette duty.

On the occasion, Niamat Roghani alleged the multinational companies were exploiting small growers through different tactics.

He said the tobacco was a cash crop which had helped generate huge revenue for the federal and provincial exchequers. He warned if the unjust policy was not changed the farmers would stop cultivating tobacco.

Arsala Khan said the federal government collected Rs120 billion per annum in various taxes on tobacco and cigarettes, but despite that it exploited the small growers.

Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2017