The new budget was announced on the eve of 3rd June, 2016, however, despite agriculture relief subsidies promised this year, there is no proper mechanism to check if the farmers are actually being benefited.
The tobacco farmers of KPK were already being harassed by monopolistic buyers and this trend is like to exacerbate after the new budget. Asad Khan, one of the local farmers, narrates his life spent working in the field 12 hours a day and in the end he gets exploited by buyers from Big Tobacco firm purchasing tobacco crop from him at the rates which appease them.
Tobacco is a labor-intensive crop mostly grown in the region of KPK. As per Pakistan Tobacco Board 2013 statistics, It is the only crop grown in Pakistan whose yield is well above the world average and matches the per hectare yield of the US and other developed countries an average yield of 3,550kilograms per hectare. However, despite presence and dominance of the Multinational Industries in this sector, the standards of living of KPK farmer’sare as primitive and poor as they have been decades ago.
Mr. Asad Khan, a local farmer of Swabi district, lamented that “I inherited my agriculture land from my father in 2004 and in hopes of a better tomorrow I took the decision of farming tobacco on my father’s land, who was originally cultivating sugarcane.
We shifted to tobacco in 2005, however, a decade has gone by and our standards of living have not improved at all. We work arduously from more than 12 hours a day to plant and harvest the best quality tobacco that can be grown in Pakistan. My crop comprises of Flue-Cured Virginia (FCV) which was previously mostly bought by Big Tobacco Company – PTC.
Buyers from this company come and buy our crops at throw away prices without giving us any room to bargain.” Mr. Khan grieved over his persisting misfortune.
Mr. Khan explained further by adding that “The buyers from these companies would come and set their own buying prices, which was always below the market buying rate. We had no other choice but to sell them at their desired rates. If we don’t sell our crops to them we had no one else to sell our crops to and this fact was exploited by buyers from these companies.”
“Now, it is to our relief that we have other local manufacturers as well in the market to sell our crop to, they give us leverage against these big tobacco buyers and because of them I have been getting better rate for my crop.” Mr. Khanadded.
As per Economic Survey of Pakistan, tobacco growing, manufacturing, distribution and retailing employs over one million persons directly and indirectly. And it is one of the most lucrative sectors in terms of income and tax generation for Pakistan. This sector is major dominated by two Big Tobacco firms PTC and PMI who have together more than 82% of the Pakistani’s tobacco market under their control.
Both of these firms are owned by Multinationals companies British American Tobacco and Phillip Morris International and annually these firms send billion abroad in terms of profits, with little or no spending is being done in Pakistan for the betterment of the country.
As per Pakistan Tobacco Board 2015 annual report, Pakistan produces one of the world’s top quality FCV tobacco, but the farmers only gets $1.66/pound which is the lowest in the region of South Asia. Mr. Khan informed us that “It is due to the monopolistic character of these Big Tobacco firms that we are not getting our fare rate for our crop, our farmers work day and night but they can’t make enough to even buy their own car, while at the same time these executives of Big Tobacco come in their big cars, which change each year, to bargain with us the crop prices.”
In the end Mr. Khan requested that “Government should encourage local industrialists to establish more factories so that there is more competition in market and black mailing can be stopped by these Big Tobacco Companies who give nothing back to the farmers, and rigorous effort should be done by Government to protect the rights of the local farmers.”
Pakistan is currently at the mercy of Big Tobacco firms who exploit as much as they can from this nation. Not only do they pay our farmers the least for their crop, but spend little or nothing on the enhancement of the farmers or their lives.
These companies publicly lament the loss of revenue to the Government due to illicit tobacco; spend million to frame Doctored Reports, but do not undertake any serious effort to actually give back to the nation from where they make their Billions.
Government agencies need to pay attention to such exploitative techniques used by MNC’s and open and fare-competitive environment should prevail in the tobacco market so that the money being made by exploiting our nation is spend in Pakistan and not abroad.
Source: Daily Times