SWABI: Tobacco growers in the district here on Wednesday demanded of the federal and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments to give them financial assistance to save their families from an imminent financial bankruptcy as hailstorm had badly damaged their crop five days ago.

Tobacco is the major cash crop and main source of livelihood of thousands of families in Swabi district.

“Virginia tobacco used in cigarette manufacturing and white patta tobacco used in snuff had both been extensively damaged,” Khalid Khan, an old tobacco grower of Gohati region, said while talking to this correspondent.

The areas hit by hailstones include Razaar tehsil, Sheikh Jana, Parmuli, parts of Dagai union council, Kalu Khan, Zaida Jhanda and Gadoon Amazai.

In these ill-fated regions, Razaar tehsil is considered a major tobacco cultivating terrain, producing quality crop while all small cigarette manufacturers are running their industry there because they could easily buy tobacco in bulk.

Last year, the total demand for both Virginia and white patta tobacco stood at 45.62 million kilogrammes while in the current year the requirement has been estimated at 56.48 million kilogrammes, registering a sizeable increase.

Kashtkar Coordination Council central general secretary Liaquat Yousafzai said white patta tobacco was ready for harvesting and curing of Virginia tobacco was expected to start in early June.

Kisan Board provincial president Rizwanullah said the damage at present ripe stage of the crop meant there was no hope of its re-growth, demanding that the federal commence ministry should come forward to provide financial assistance to farmers.

When contacted, officials of the multinational companies and Pakistan Tobacco Board said they had started work to assess the damage.

Published in Dawn, May 20th, 2021

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