Indian tobacco farmers wary of ensuing diktat

Agonised tobacco farmers looking at India’s WHO FCTC meet with hope

Business & Politics

News - India & You

October 14, 2016

/ By / Kolkata

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With the Supreme Court’s determined ban on all forms of chewable tobacco and nicotine, the Government is reportedly in the process of formulating tobacco control policies, as the country gears up to host its first World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) in November; farmers anticipate falling in the blind spot of policy formulation.

Plantations in Virginia

Plantations in Virginia

The question of livelihood arises as millions of tobacco farmers in India apprehensively wait for the changes that will be inculcated after the WHO FCTC COP7 meet that is scheduled to take place from November 7 to 12, this year. The protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products is an international treaty to address the increasing illegal trade in tobacco products. Based on Article 15 of the FCTC (WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control), parties to this convention intend to work towards elimination of all forms of illicit trade in tobacco products, including smuggling, illicit manufacturing and counterfeiting, and the development and implementation of related national laws, in addition to sub regional, regional and global agreements. India’s stance as a host for the convention remains to be seen.

Second largest producer of Tobacco

With 13 states growing the crop, and an estimated 800 million kg produced annually, India is the world’s second largest producer of tobacco. India’s consumption of tobacco is particularly peculiar. Only 11 pc of tobacco consumption is through legal cigarettes. The rest of the consumption happens through products like chewing tobacco, bidis, khaini, illegal cigarettes etc. whereas in the rest of the world, tobacco consumption is almost synonymous to cigarettes comprising a stark 90 pc in contrast. Over the last three decades, the consumption of cigarettes in the country have been estimated to have dropped from 21 pc in 1981-82 to the current 11 pc. Simultaneously the overall tobacco consumption in the country has increased by 38 pc. This drop in legal cigarettes is reflected in the shift to the illegal cigarette and the unorganized sectors of the industry.
Federation of All India Farmer Associations (FAIFA) spoke dismally about anticipated ad hoc decisions in a written appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking for an inclusion of the tobacco farmers in the official Indian delegation at the WHO FCTC COP7 meet. FAIFA has also sent out an appeal to the WHO FCTC Secretariat requesting an observer status for the farmers.

Tobacco that will be sliced into flakes

Tobacco that can be sliced into flakes

The plea to policy makers for the promotion of balanced regulations for the safeguarding of interests and livelihood of millions of small farmers and rural workers finds its roots in the ambition of a democratic and participative approach to the formulation of the Indian delegation at the convention. The appeal has, reportedly, also been submitted to the Health Ministry, Agriculture Ministry and Finance Ministry among others.

The AIBIF (All India Bidi Industry Federation) is another tobacco body that has pled for a representation of the farmers at the convention, stating that the importance of the participation for highlighting the counterfeit tobacco trade in the country has not been realised by the government yet.

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