POST TIME: 15 February, 2019 11:15:40 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 15 February, 2019 03:56:52 PM
Tobacco farming goes unabated
Firms offer cash incentives to farmers to expand tobacco cultivation
Our Correspondent, Jhenidah

Tobacco farming goes unabated

This recent photo shows a grower nursing tobacco plants at a village in Jhenidah district. Independent photo

Tobacco companies are luring farmers with lucrative offers to expand tobacco farming in Jhenidah. This is in conflict with the government's efforts to make Bangladesh tobacco-free by 2040.

However, officials of the Department of Agriculture Axtension (DAE), Jhenidah, claim that the area under tobacco farming has gradually reduced in the district.

“People are becoming aware of the harmful impacts of tobacco. More farmers would refuse to use their land for tobacco farming in future,” says one of them.

A number of farmers at Udoypur village in Jhenidah Sadar upazila allege that tobacco firms have engaged some local influentials, including political persons, to run campaigns to encourage them to continue tobacco farming.

They say the companies have offered fertilisers and chemical pesticides free of cost.

The companies have even paid for the tobacco leaves in advance.

Earlier, these firms used to sign contracts with tobacco farmers. They used to give cards to farmers to avail the facilities offered by them.

The farmers also say that tobacco farmers and members of their families suffer from heart ailments and other physical complications due to tobacco farming.

They need huge amounts of money for treatment, the farmers add. Tobacco farming may engulf more land in the district as these firms have been motivating farmers to bring their land under tobacco farming.

When contacted, Dr Aloke Kumar Saha, veteran child specialist and principal of Magura Medical College and Hospital, says children were initially the worst victims of tobacco, but its harmful impacts eventually spread among the adolescents and adults. Women also suffer as they are involved in processing tobacco leaves at their homes.

They also suffer from asthma for years on end, he adds. Environmentalist Masud Ahmed Sanju says tobacco farming cannot be stopped, although human right activists and environmentalists have been putting pressure on the government in this regard.

The DAE sources say farmers brought 477 hectares under tobacco farming last season. But the area has been reduced to 421 hectares in the current season. The area under tobacco farming may reduce further next season, the sources add.

Contacted, DAE deputy director (Jhenidah) GM Abdur Rauf yesterday said the government had been campaigning to discourage tobacco farmers. It has already stopped providing fertilisers and other agriculture inputs for the purpose, he added.

Further, the DAE has been motivating farmers to refrain from tobacco farming due to health hazards and environmental issues.

But tobacco company officials have been instigating the farmers to continue the farming and increase the area of operation every year.