SWABI: Purchasing companies and small cigarette manufacturers never declare their true tobacco quotas in a bid to buy the surplus from the growers at throwaway rates, thus causing them financial losses every year, sources in the firms told Dawn on Saturday requesting anonymity.

They said the total expected production of all varieties of tobacco during the current year was about 86 million kilogrammes (kg), while total requirement of both national and multinational companies was 53.575 million kg. They said the total quota in 2021 was 56.48 million kg.

They said over 32 million kg of tobacco was going to be surplus with growers this year, who would be forced to sell it to the companies at much lower the price fixed by the Pakistan Tobacco Board (PTB).

The sources said the companies and PTB were encouraging farmers to grow White Patta and Virginia tobacco in Mianwali district of Punjab to keep the KP producers under pressure. They said the quality produced in Mianwali was not that good.

Sources said the PTB had announced the minimum indicative price for 2022 at Rs245 per kg against last year’s Rs214. The increased price is aimed to make farmers grow more.

They added last year about 11 to 14 million kg of tobacco had turned surplus, which was bought at about Rs120 to Rs130 per kg, inflicting a great financial loss on farmers.

When contacted, leaders of growers said companies never announced their exact quotas, and always waited for the crop to turn surplus so they could purchase it from poverty-stricken growers at throwaway price. Due to this, they said a number of farmers had quit growing tobacco.

Liaqat Yousafzai, central president of Tobacco Growers Association, said it was responsibility of the government to make companies buy all the tobacco lying with growers.

He said the federal government netted Rs114 billion through central excise duty and sales tax on tobacco last year, and the provincial government took Rs1.5 billion through tobacco development cess, but despite that they took no steps for betterment of growers, leaving them at the mercy of buyers.

The purchase of the crop is expected to start this month.

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2022

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