Tobacco Asia

Volume 20, Number 3

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46 tobaccoasia LEAF NEWS 烟叶新闻 crops or to practise intercropping. "I don't support growing tobacco only because when a child goes hungry, it cannot be eaten and when it fails to get market, the farmer cannot eat it other than disposing of it," he explained. India Farmers Body Supports Ban Calling for a ban on foreign direct investment (FDI) in tobacco sector, the Federation of All India Farmer Associa- tions (FAIFA) recently said multinational firms are using ambiguities in the FDI policy to endorse international brands in the country, which encourages illegal trade. FAIFA, which represents tobacco growers in India, alleged the multina- tional companies (MNCs) switch supply chains globally depending upon currency fluctuations and labor arbitrage, thereby making for an unstable employment opportunity and not adding value in the domestic economy. "We have written to prime minister highlighting how the multinational tobacco companies are using ambiguities in FDI policy to endorse international brands in India which encourages illegal trade," FAIFA general secretary Murali Babu said in a statement. FAIFA also welcomed a move by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion to ban FDI in tobacco sector, which has received support from the finance ministry. "MNCs possess the unique competi- tive ability to switch supply chains globally depending upon currency fluctuations as well as opportunities arising from labor arbitrage. This does not also make for a stable employment opportunity and value addition in the domestic economy," FAIFA said. The tobacco farmers' body further said: "As a result, the country today is witnessing a jobless growth in consump- tion besides significant outflow of foreign currency in the form." The body further said there has been a steep decline in legal cigarette volumes and the consequent reduction in the utilization of flue-cured Virginia tobacco in cigarette has had "a devastating impact" on the tobacco farmers. It blamed increased taxation on legal cigarettes and "the resulting growth of illegal cigarettes in the country which the multinational companies promote through the loopholes in FDI" for the plight of the tobacco farmers. Phase-out of Subsidies Slow It has been a year (June 2015) since the Karnataka High Court directed the government to consider and finalize methodologies for reducing subsidies to tobacco farmers, but both the central and state governments have failed to come out with an action plan and the government still continues to provide both subsidies and incentives to tobacco farmers and growers. The Centre for Law and Policy Research, which assisted in filing the PIL in the Karnataka High Court, has taken the lead for a public consultation and finalized a policy brief to help the government and other stakeholders to proceed with formulation of guidelines for reducing subsidies to tobacco growers. This policy brief is expected to be submitted to the government shortly. Experts say the government, being a signatory to Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), cannot promote and should, in fact, discourage both cultivation and use of tobacco. With Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh being major producers of tobacco in the country, the respective governments should have taken the lead and come out with a policy statement at least after the court order. Contrary to this, the production of flue-cured Virginia (FCV) tobacco in Karnataka has actually increased in the last few years from 93.86 million kg in 2012-13 to 103.5 million kg in 2014-15. Meanwhile, the Anti-Tobacco Forum, which has been been active in tobacco control for the past 15 years, has visited many villages, interacted with tobacco farmers, and convinced them to give up growing tobacco. The subsidies and incentives provided by the Tobacco Board for farmers growing FCV include supply of inputs, farming mechanisms, fertilizers, and equipment for improving yield and quality of tobacco, improving of curing practices, and extension program. Under the concept of good agricultural processes, it also extends subsidies of certain inputs to farmers in lands identified as model project areas. Indonesia E. Java Rejects Intervention Growing pressure from foreign NGOs demanding Indonesia immediately ratify the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) has been met with strong resistance from East Java Governor Soekarwo. Soekarwo asked foreign NGOs not to intervene in matters related to tobacco farming and product manufacturing in Indonesia, including East Java. "No, no. It has nothing to do with those NGOs. Tobacco is the livelihood of East Java's people. Why do they have to dictate how we handle our tobacco affairs? I don't like it. Mind your own business," Soekarwo said last week in Surabaya, East Java. Soekarwo said East Java had a close relationship with Indonesia's tobacco product manufacturing industry as it employed around 600,000 workers, who would be affected if the government ratified FCTC. A similar sentiment was conveyed by tobacco manufacturers in Indonesia. They wrote a joint letter expressing their concerns over the sustainability of the tobacco industry in Indonesia to President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo at the end of May. They outlined their concerns that the government would bow to growing pressure from NGOs on immediately ratifying FCTC. Cigarette manufacturing association Paguyuban Mitra Pelinting Sigaret Indonesia (MPSI) chairman Djoko Wahyudi said one of the requirements stipulated in the FCTC was the prohibi- tion of additional materials, including cloves, in cigarettes, though 95% of cigarettes in Indonesia are kretek (clove cigarettes). "FCTC will kill kretek, a genuine Indonesian product. We hope and call on the Indonesian government to stay committed to protecting the national tobacco manufacturing industry as a whole, which comprises tobacco farmers, workers and industrial players," said Djoko. He said the MPSI employed more than 40,000 workers across Indonesia. Indonesian Tobacco Growers Association chairman Soeseno said: "If Indonesia ratifies FCTS, we will have to convert our tobacco plantations to other commodities; this will threaten the prosperity of around two million farmers and millions of tobacco workers in Indonesia," said Soeseno, claiming there was no other commodity that could provide greater profits for farmers.

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