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Monday, Nov 18, 2002

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Excess Karnataka crop — Tobacco growers seek protection

Our Bureau

GUNTUR, Nov. 17

THE Andhra Pradesh Virginia Tobacco Growers' Association has made an appeal to the Tobacco Board and the Andhra Pradesh Government to protect their interests by foiling attempts to get authorisation for the surplus crop grown in Karnataka illegally.

In a statement issued here on Sunday, Dr Y. Sivaji, president of the association, said Karnataka farmers had grown 60 million kg of tobacco this season against the authorised quantity of 42 million kg and the Karnataka Government was making a concerted attempt to get the surplus authorised and marketed on the floors.

He said this would adversely affect the interests of Andhra farmers, as the auction process would begin in Andhra Pradesh after the conclusion of Karnataka auctions. (Karnataka grows tobacco as an early kharif crop, whereas in Andhra Pradesh it is a rabi crop. Therefore, the crop is being auctioned in Karnataka now while planting is still going on in Andhra Pradesh.)

Dr Sivaji said during the past few years it had become a habit with Karnataka farmers to grow excess to the detriment of Andhra Pradesh farmers, and the trend was being encouraged by the Andhra Pradesh-based trade. The trade, he said, was playing the farmers of one State against those of the other and exploiting the situation.

"Unfortunately, Karnataka politicians are also taking a short-sighted view of the issue,'' he said. He said earlier this month, the Tobacco Board had held a meeting in Hyderabad on this issue, but could not come to any decision, as the Andhra Pradesh members were against authorisation of the excess crop. He said he had apprised the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, Mr N. Chandrababu Naidu, of the problem and urged him to foil the bid of Karnataka.

The Chief Minister had convened a meeting on November 22 as the Tobacco Board was scheduled to meet again on November 23 on the issue.

Dr Sivaji said Karnataka farmers should also realise that excess crop would, in the long run, harm their interests as well and they should not fall a prey to the tricks of the trade.

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