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SWABI, Dec 12: Growers here have rejected the new tobacco prices for year 2013 as nominal and announced on Wednesday that they would launch a protest movement against Pakistan Tobacco Board (PTB).

They said that expenditure on tobacco production had increased manifold while the Pakistan Tobacco Board continued to stick to old pricing formula, which was not acceptable to them.

However, Pakistan Tobacco Board chairman Rasul Bakhsh Palejo said that the new pricing formula had been adopted with consensus of growers and tobacco purchasing companies in a meeting at the board’s head office in Peshawar on Tuesday.

“Everybody was on board when the decision was made,” he claimed when contacted for his comment.

“The Pakistan Tobacco Board has endorsed the findings of ‘special committee on cost of production and prices & grade revision’ with regard to minimum indicative prices for tobacco crop 2013,” says a press release on Wednesday.

Mr Palejo said that the maximum per kilogramme price of flue-cured Virginia (FCV) had been increased from Rs121 to Rs141, white patta tobacco from Rs58 to Rs65, barley tobacco from Rs107 to Rs117 and dark air-cured from Rs51.50 to Rs57.

“These prices of different varieties of the crop are for year 2013 tobacco purchasing season.

The process has been finalised by the officers and committee concerned and we plan to declare these prices very soon. The decision is final,” he said.

Answering a question, he said that the Pakistan Tobacco Board had been working under the Federal Ministry of Commerce, which had constituted the committee for finalisation of crop prices after visits to tobacco producing areas.

“The tobacco price formula has been finalised and it is not a unilateral decision of either the Pakistan Tobacco Board officers or the ministry, as representatives of companies and growers also took part in the process,” the Pakistan Tobacco Board chairman said.

On the other hand, Kashthkar Coordination Council (KCC) has alleged that both the commerce ministry and Pakistan Tobacco Board are protecting the interests of multinational companies.

“We are determined not to allow the companies to continue exploitation of farmers by buying tobacco from them at low prices,” said KCC provincial general secretary Liaquat Yousufzai.

Flanked by other KCC leaders, he said that last year crop commissioner Dr Aslam had recommended that the companies should buy the FCV tobacco from the growers at Rs183 per kilogramme. “A year has passed and now we demand that the price of FCV should be increased to Rs240 per kg,” he said.

“The price of other varieties should also be jacked up accordingly by the Pakistan Tobacco Board,” Mr Yousufzai said.

KCC president Arif Ali Khan said that expenditures on tobacco production had increased manifold due rising prices of fertilizer, pesticides and fuel wood, while the Pakistan Tobacco Board and ministry was sticking to old formula.

He said that cost of labour, fireman, loading, unloading and grading had also gone up substantially.

“Unlike past the new prices do not carry the signature of crop commissioner and that is the reason we see these as unconstitutional. We may go to the Peshawar High Court against the new prices,” Mr Khan said.