More than a month after FCV Tobacco auctions began amid the second wave of coronavirus pandemic, the farmers are a worried lot as major buyers continue to shy away from auctions.
Thirty seven days have passed since the auction began and a meagre 23.10 million kg of tobacco was sold across the platforms in the southern black and light soils of Prakasam district and northern light Soils of West Godavari district. The target for this year is 115 million kg, but the farmers are worried about the low marketing potential of the low and medium grade varieties.
With the pandemic raging, speculations are rife that the auction could close early. Farmers say that all the major global and Indian tobacco firms, the major buyers, continue to shy away from the auction platforms, citing uncertain export orders owing to the pandemic.
During the first wave of the pandemic last year, Chief Minister Y.S Jagan Mohan Reddy took a decision to press the A.P. Markfed into action to buy the low and medium grade varieties, which offered some relief to the farmers. However, the government is yet to go for market intervention this year.
Farmers who battle the vagaries of nature and price fluctuations are at their wit’s end, alleging that the Tobacco Board has failed to rein in on the corporate giants . “It is time the Tobacco Board intervened to bail out the farmers. The trade giants have been stonewalling the proposal to bring Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to the tobacco industry. A Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) has recommended for FDI in the sector, but the industry giants have managed to keep the report under the wraps,” alleges Y. Sivaji, former MP and former honourary president of Virginia Tobacco Growers Association.
However, the average prices of all varieties NBS, SBS, SLS, NLS have shown some increase at ₹163.30 per kg as when compared to ₹154.45 per kg last year. The tobacco grown on NLS continues to fetch ₹167.39 per kg.