Tobacco Asia

Volume 20, Number 1

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60 tobaccoasia LEAF NEWS 烟叶新闻 "While we sympathise with those independent farmers who demand that their tobacco produce should be purchased by British American Tobacco Kenya, the reality is that the 1994 rules prohibit anyone from purchasing tobacco from a farmer with whom he has no existing sponsorship agreement. We, therefore, can only purchase tobacco that we have contracted to grow," she added. The firm recently skirted controversy with farmers from Bungoma County accusing it of rejecting tobacco from the region. The dispute reportedly saw local leaders threaten to mobilize growers to storm BAT's leaf-buying center at Malakisi. BAT, which has contracted 5,537 farmers countrywide, said it would continue encouraging good growing practices, including the dropping of three lower leaves at topping. "The impact of this is that the leaves become heavier, acquire the preferred orange colour on curing and have better chemistries in terms of nicotine and sugars. All these benefits would com- pound to better yields and subsequently better prices for the farmer," said Ms Anyika. The model, according to the British cigarette maker, has triggered an improvement in yields among BAT Kenya-contracted farmers. South Africa Tobacco Tests Vaccines Scientists at University of Cape Town (UCT) have created synthetic viruses in plants which are used to test the efficacy of vaccines. In a pioneering step towards using plants to produce vaccines against cervical cancer and other viruses, UCT researchers have generated synthetic human papillo- mavirus-derived viral particles called pseudovirions in tobacco plants. "We've succeeded in making a completely mammalian viral particle in a plant - proteins, DNA, everything. That's enormously exciting," says Dr Inga Hitzeroth of the Biopharming Research Unit (BRU) at UCT. In an open access study just pub- lished in Nature Scientific Reports, BRU researchers report using tobacco plants to create a synthetic viral particle known as a pseudovirion. A pseudovirion looks like a virus, but it contains no infectious viral DNA. Pseudovirions carry what- ever DNA the researcher wishes to include within the shell of proteins that make up the outer coating of the virus. Until now, such particles have only ever been created in yeast or mammalian cell cultures - this is the first time researchers have successfully created pseudovirions in plants. The BRU is part of a new movement known as biopharming, which means using plants as biological factories. Biopharming has been used to create flu vaccines, potential Ebola drugs, and an enzyme used to treat Gaucher's Disease in humans. The technique employs the cellular machinery within tobacco plants or other plant cells to manufacture enzymes, antibodies or even the viral capsid proteins (the proteins that make up the shell of a virus), which act as vaccines. US/Central America Low Nicotine Tobacco Grown The 22nd Century Group, Inc., a plant biotechnology company, says it is producing very low nicotine tobacco and claims it is the leader in lowering harm from tobacco through genetic engineer- ing and plant breeding. The group sees big money potential if its Central American growing program proves successful. The specially-propagated Central American tobacco crop is expected to produce sufficient quantities of very low nicotine tobacco seed stock to support 22nd Century's increasing distribution of "VLN" tobacco cigarettes in Europe, as well as the anticipated future distribution of VLN tobacco cigarettes in the United States, as well as the potential sales of VLN tobacco leaf in Asia. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a phytosanitary certificate to 22nd Century to facilitate export of the company's proprietary Nicotiana tabacum (tobacco) seeds to select growers in Central America. As a result of the company's successful field trials, the proprietary VLN tobacco seed being produced will allow to company to greatly expand its tobacco leaf growing programs in both the United States and in Central America. The tobacco plants in Central America are expected to produce seed sufficient to grow tens of thousands of acres of VLN tobacco. "The positive results of our Central American tobacco seed production program could not have come at a better time," explained Henry Sicignano, III, president and chief executive officer of 22nd Century Group. "Now 22nd Century will have sufficient stockpiles of VLN seeds to support increased distribution of the company's MAGIC "O" cigarettes as well as launches of our other proprietary very low nicotine products around the world." India Growers' Mixed Fortune Tobacco growers in India had a terrible cropping season last year, and it looks like it is going to be a mixed bag of fortunes this year as well. Tobacco curings began on a promising note. The bright grade tobacco variety accounted for a majority of the crop that was taken up for curing, according to the Indian Tobacco Association (ITA). "Around four to five million kg (m. kg) of tobacco had been taken up for curing in 5,000 of the 20,000 barns in operation. Almost the entire crop happens to be bright grade, which fetches a premium price in the market," confirmed ITA. However, the parasitic weed, Orabanche Cernua, that had invaded 60% of fields, is expected to hit productivity this year at a time when the Tobacco Board has cut down the crop size by 52 m. kg. Meanwhile, YSRC Whip in Parlia- ment Y.V. Subba Reddy urged union commerce minister Nirmala Sitharam and agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh to direct scientists from the Central Tobacco Research Institute (CTRI) to visit the fields and suggest ways to control the parasitic weed. The farmers have resorted to 'light flood irrigation' in areas where water facility is available, which lessens the impact of the parasitic weed but affects the crop quality. Bypassing the Tobacco Board, some private firms had started making purchases by offering a higher price of Rs. 130 per kg, complained a group of farmers coming under the Ongole II Auction platform and warned that they would resort to agitation if the authori- ties failed to act fast.

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