Leaders of the tobacco growers, MPs and Tobacco Board members from Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh have condemned the draft framed by the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) to reduce tobacco production without showing alternative source of employment or income to ryots.
Ongole MP Magunta Srinivasulu Reddy, a member of the Tobacco Board who presided over the Tobacco Board Formation Day function at the Indian Tobacco Association hall here on Friday, said the WHO FCTC draft would affect the livelihood of over 1.5 lakh farmers in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. He urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to initiate steps to better safeguard the interests of tobacco growers in the wake of the WHO FCTC proposal to reduce the output of the major commercial crop. Articles 9 and 10 of the WHO FCTC draft have imposed severe curbs on production of cigarettes.
According to the MP, the Union government is seriously considering the crop insurance scheme for tobacco growers. The Centre is ready to bear 50 per cent of the premium if the respective state government comes forward to pay 25 per cent and the Tobacco Board and farmers 12.5 per cent each for providing insurance cover to the commercial crop. AP Virginia Tobacco Growers Association honorary president and former MP Yalamanchili Sivaji and KV Rayudu, a board member from Karnataka, demanded that the Union Government allow the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in tobacco industry to break the monopoly of a few major players.
If the FDI is allowed in the tobacco industry, new companies will set up cigarette manufacturing units which help farmers get remunerative price for their produce, they said. Narasaraopet MP Modugula Venugopala Reddy, who came to the venue before the start of the function, picked an argument with Tobacco Board incharge chairman CV Subba Rao taking exception to non-extension of invitation to him for the Formation Day celebrations.