SWABI: Leaders of the farmers here on Sunday urged the government and Pakistan Tobacco Board (PTB) to play proactive role to protect the tobacco growers from exploitation by the companies and business community.

They made this demand while briefing mediapersons about their campaign to boycott cultivation of the crop this year as a protest against indifferent attitude of the PTB and tobacco companies. They said over 1.5 million people were directly or indirectly associated with tobacco farming and business for livelihood in the province.

Flanked by other leaders, Tobacco Growers Association Pakistan central president Liaquat Yousafzai said at the briefing that last year the PTB announced a quota of 50 million kilogrammes of tobacco for various companies, but according to a survey by an international company the cigarettes used in the country required 100 million kgs of the crop.

They said that tobacco was the largest cash crop of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa grown over 35,000 hectares of which 65 per cent was produced in Swabi, 15pc in Mardan, 8pc in Charsadda, 5pc in Manshara, 4pc in Buner and the remaining three per cent in Malakand and Nowshera districts.

The growers’ leaders said the companies and traders annually circulated about Rs600 billion in the business. They said the federal government collected up to Rs150 billion in taxes annually through the Federal Board of Revenue, but despite that the companies and traders had created an environment where they could easily exploit the farmers.

They alleged that only a few companies bought the crop in the open market.

They claimed the situation had forced the farmers to sell their crop at Rs120-130 per kg because they could not afford to store the harvest for long.

According to rules, the companies should announce their quota for next year in October every year, but till date neither the rate nor the quota was announced through PTB, Mr Yousafzai said, adding the growers had been left at the mercy of companies and business community.

Published in Dawn, January 3rd, 2022

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