Tobacco Farmers Demand Reduction in Pictorial Warning Space
The Federation of All India Framers Association (FAIFA) has staged a protest outside the residences of Union Health Minister J. P. Nadda and Dilip Gandhi, head of parliamentary panel on subordinate legislation examining the provisions of the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003. The farmers group, working mainly for the welfare of cash crop growers was agitating against the proposed notification requiring statutory health warnings across 85% of surface of cigarette packs, instead of the earlier 40%.
Farmers from Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Karnataka accuses that the pictorial warnings harm the interest of domestic farmers, as consumers prefer smuggled foreign cigarettes which do not have such warnings. They also allege that the government proposal was pushed by NGOs with vested interests.
The issue gained national attention with the increasing number of suicides committed by the tobacco farmers, especially in the Andhra- Telengana region. The tobacco trade in these states have had been hit by the growing volatility in global market, which led to a dip in price for the low and medium grade products. The situation has also been aggravated by the import and illegal smuggling of cigarettes from other countries.
As there are no takers for the low grades, the stocks are laying in surplus, without any procurement facilities. Even if there are takers, they offer meager prices in return. However, the areas growing bright grades are not suffering much, for there are still takers for the product.
Tobacco is an important cash crop of the country, and is capable of growing in water deficient areas. The crop is less susceptible to climatic variations also.