Tobacco growers have asked the Government to ensure a berth for them in the global talks that seek to put clamp on tobacco crop. Irked at not being taken as members of the Indian delegation at the recent talks in Korea, the tobacco growers demanded that they need to be heard as they are the key stakeholders.

They asked for representation in the Working Group being currently constituted to draft recommendations on Articles 17 and 18 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) at the 6th Conference of Parties (CoP 6) to be held next year.

These articles are aimed at reducing the tobacco crop size across the globe, keeping in view the resistance to this crop.

In a letter toPrime Minister Manmohan Singh and Union Ministers of Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Family Welfare and External Affairs, they explained how vital their presence in the new working group.

No alternatives

They are alleging that farmers are not being shown viable alternatives to shift from tobacco cultivation.

“The delegation from India who had been sent to the global talks to decide upon the fate of the eight crore tobacco farmers in India had little knowledge or background of crops and agricultural conditions in India,” the farmers alleged.

As a result, the guidelines put forth by the working group on the articles were dismissed by the FCTC as the guidelines suggested were considered to be impractical and unreasonable, the farmers pointed out in the letters.

According to growers, the original intent of FCTC was to help tobacco farmers cope with potential reduction in demand by providing with alternate crop options. “Neither is there any reduction in demand nor is there any economically viable alternative to tobacco crop available to us.”

They alleged that five large tobacco growing countries such as the US, Argentina and Zimbabwe have not signed the FCTC. The farmers in these five countries will stand to gain, if tobacco crop is curbed in India because they do not need to comply with FCTC-led crop reduction.

kurmanath.kanchi@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on January 23, 2013)
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