FCTC Articles 17 & 18 will Destroy Farmers' Livelihood

The original objective of Articles 17 & 18 was not to reduce tobacco cultivation but for concerned governments to help farmers find alternative crops to tobacco in case demand for tobacco was to come down. However, anti-tobacco activists and such bodies are seeking to influence governments to force tobacco farmers to shift to other crops which are not viable substitutes for earnings of farmers.

Unfortunately, the anti-tobacco NGOs in India are pushing vested interest of foreign donors and have no understanding of tobacco cultivation and no appreciation of the livelihood of 4.6 crore people who are dependent on tobacco in the country.

Any harsh measures adopted by FCTC on alternative crops will therefore, have huge impact on farmers, farm workers and others that are associated with tobacco cultivation in the country and bring great deal of misery to their families.

Any move towards alternative agricultural crop in place of tobacco should involve long-term research and experimentation before viable options can be found and must be done with the involvement of tobacco farmers. No decision in this regard by the government can be taken in isolation without the active participation of farmers in order to protect their livelihood.

The Central Tobacco Research Institute (CTRI) based in Rajamundhry, Andhra Pradesh despite many experiments and trial has not been able to find a crop that is as remunerative as tobacco. In fact, no country in the world has to date established an economically viable alternative to tobacco. FAIFA is not against alternative crops but the feasibility and sustainability of such crops must be proven conclusively through experiments and trials under similar agricultural and climatic conditions as in tobacco growing regions in the country.

Moreover, as long as there is demand for tobacco and tobacco products in the country, tobacco grown in other countries will find their way into the country mainly through illegal channels. Many large tobacco growing countries which have not ratified the FCTC will be under no obligation to reduce tobacco cultivation.

Articles 17 & 18 of the FCTC pose a huge threat to our livelihood and cannot be considered without proper trials and experimentation that can establish the feasibility of sustainable and economically viable alternative crops.