Low grade tobacco pours cold water on farmers’ high expectations


A large percentage of tobacco cultivated in the State during the crop season 2020-21 turned out to be low grade, hitting many tobacco farmers hard.

Out of the 88.42 million kg of tobacco which was sold during the recently concluded auction season in Karnataka, as much as 39.11 million kg was graded as low while 35.81 million kg was graded as medium and the remaining 13.5 million kg as bright.

According to Manjunath, Regional Manager of Tobacco Board, Mysuru, the average price commanded by bright grade tobacco was ₹182.77 per kg and medium grade fetched ₹138.76 kg. However, the low grade tobacco was sold for an average price of only ₹80.88 per kg.

While the highest bid for the year 2020-21 was ₹264 per kg, the lowest was just ₹20 per kg. The average price of tobacco for the year 2020-21 stood at ₹119.87 per kg.

The average price of tobacco, however, appears to have been witnessing a decline since the last three years – ₹136 per kg during 2018-19, dipped to ₹124 during 2019-20 before coming down to ₹119.87 during 2020-21.

Mr. Manjunath said the dip in average price of tobacco this year was due to the large volumes of low grade tobacco, which is attributed to climatic conditions. Due to excessive rainfall, a large quantity of tobacco yield turned out to be of poor quality this year, he said.

Meanwhile, President of Federation of VFC Tobacco Growers Associations of Karnataka Javare Gowda sought to make it clear that the dip in average price of tobacco was purely on account of decrease in good quality tobacco. “The market has sent a message that there is a demand for good quality tobacco.” .

He said he had recently convened a meeting of farmers with tobacco merchants, where quality consciousness of the market was discussed.

Hence, he said it was important for the farmers to adapt better agricultural practices, both pre-harvesting and post-harvesting. Even though climatic conditions play a role in the quality of tobacco output, the farmers need to adopt the best practices when it comes to picking the tobacco leaves, storing, bulking and grading them.

He regretted that few farmers carry out soil testing. Apart from application of fertilizers, the farmers should ensure that the quality of soil is improved and they need to take up measures for the same.

The Tobacco Board, which had initially fixed 99 million kg as the crop size for Karnataka, had later revised it to 88 million kg, anticipating a dip in the global demand for tobacco in view of COVID-19.

Against the crop size of 88 million kg, a total of 88.42 million kg was sold across the 11 auction platforms in the State, mostly in Mysuru district, from September 30, 2020, when the auction season began till March 22, 2021 when the auctions concluded.

Penalty

The Board had fixed a quota of 1,552 kg per barn and the farmers who had cultivated tobacco in excess were levied a penalty of ₹ 2 per kg and 10 per cent on the proceeds of the sale of tobacco.

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