Why We Grow Tobacco and Not Other Crops?

Among cigarette tobacco varieties, the Flue-Cured Virginia (FCV) tobacco is the most dominant variety in India as well as the world. FCV tobacco is grown in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Telengana and Karnataka, and thrives in soil and climatic conditions that are unsuitable for cultivation of other crops. There is no equally remunerative alternative crop to tobacco.

FCV Tobacco is planted in poor, marginal soils and, being a hardy, disease resistant crop, grows well in the semi-arid and rain-fed conditions. Even in extremely adverse weather conditions, the crop suffers low fluctuation in yield.

In fact, in a 2006 a report titled “Overcoming Drought: Adaptation Strategies for Andhra Pradesh”, the World Bank favoured a shift in cropping pattern in Andhra Pradesh from rice to less water-intensive crops to decrease vulnerability of crops.

FCV tobacco is highly labour-intensive and generates more man-days of employment per unit of land than alternative crops grown in the region. Whereas FCV Tobacco requires an average of 250 man-days per acre, Cotton, Chilies, Groundnut and Red Gram require only 190, 120, 80 and 45 man-days per acre respectively. Any sudden shift from tobacco to any other crop could result in unemployment to millions of workers, creating social problems in villages and putting the livelihood of farmers and workers at stake.

The global demand for tobacco compared to other agri-commodities remains stable. This also ensures steady and remunerative earnings for FCV tobacco farmers in the country. Tobacco is also less perishable than horticulture and poultry products, making it an ideal export commodity. In addition there are well established infrastructural facilities for curing, storing and transporting of  FCV tobacco besides a transparent auction system managed by the Tobacco Board set-up by the Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Government of India. This system of auction ensures prompt payment to the farmers, competitive bidding, liberal bank finance for crop raising etc.