India - tobacco production rose 25 percent in 2008-2009..

July 6, 2009 - India’s tobacco production rose by 25 per cent to 314 million kg in 2008-09 (252 million kg in the previous year), making it even more difficult for the country to meet its commitment to the World Health Organization (WHO) to reduce production by 50 per cent within the next decade. The rise in output has been massive,” state-owned Tobacco Board Chairman J Suresh Babu said.

The output from Andhra Pradesh, the largest producer, rose to 200 million kg in 2008-09 from 165 million kg in the previous year. Production in Karnataka surged to 114 million kg as against 87 million kg during the review period, Babu said.

The rise in production may spell bad news for the country. India, the third-largest exporter of tobacco in the world, became a signatory to the "WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2003, whereby it is mandatory to reduce tobacco supply by 50 per cent within 10-15 years of signing the pact.

However, as prices of the Indian tobacco touched records, farmers are tempted all the more to cultivate it, Babu said. The average price of tobacco in the ongoing auction in Andhra Pradesh has touched a record and is currently ruling at Rs 108.70 a kg, compared with over Rs 84 the year before, he said.

Surging demand in global markets, coupled with a decline in output in Zimbabwe by about 20 million kg, is putting pressure on tobacco prices, he said.

To curtail tobacco production, the Commerce Ministry had mandated the Tobacco Board to prepare a road map for shifting farmers to other crops and work out a rehabilitation formula for those whose livelihood depends upon such cultivation.

On its part, The Tobacco Board has submitted a Rs 125-crore proposal to the Commerce Ministry to rehabilitate farmers. According to the proposal, an amount of Rs 5 lakh will be provided in three installments to each of the 2,500 barns selected in the first lot for farmers to shift to other crops.

Reference: Rising tobacco output flies in the face of WHO commitment, Press Trust Of India / New Delhi, 7/4/2009.