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Tobacco said to threaten food security

| March 18, 2014

Food security in Bangladesh could be under threat because of the government’s failure to discourage a rapid growth in tobacco plantings, according to a story in the New Age quoting unnamed specialists at the Department of Agriculture’s extension service.

The department’s spokespeople said that tobacco acreage in Bangladesh had gone from 29,290 ha in fiscal year 2007–2008 to 55,950 ha in 2012–2013, while tobacco production had gone from 40,240 tonnes to 103,650 tonnes during the same period.

And they said that tobacco production was gradually shifting from the north to the south and hill districts.

Tobacco companies were said to recruit farmers by offering them free seeds, fertilizers, insecticides and whatever they needed for cultivation. But declining profits for traditional crops were also blamed for large numbers of farmers switching from rice to tobacco.

Unnamed anti-tobacco campaigners were quoted as saying that tobacco companies won over farmers by promising profits that often did not materialize.

They bought farmers’ crops and guaranteed a steady demand and stable prices.

And farmers did not have to worry about selling their leaf because the buyers came to their farms to buy it.

The campaigners said, however, that many farmers later realized that growing tobacco was not as profitable as it had seemed to be, but they were unable to quit tobacco because they could not repay the loans they had taken from the companies.

Tobacco growing shrinking in Kyrgyzstan

| March 18, 2014

This year, Kyrgyzstan will reduce the area under tobacco by 500 ha, according to a Times of Central Asia story.

The Times was relaying a KyrTAG news agency report citing Jumabek Asylbekov, head of the food security and agro-marketing department at Kyrgyzstan’s Agriculture Ministry.

“The area under tobacco shrinks every year,” said Asylbekov, who added that the total area under tobacco in Kyrgyzstan today was 3,000 ha.

The ministry says it is keen to introduce a mechanized harvesting system to Kyrgyz tobacco fields.

“Tobacco growing is a profitable business, but it requires hard manual labor that is detrimental to health,” said Asylbekov. “So it is necessary to mechanize tobacco harvesting.”

The ministry has apparently developed a mechanized-harvesting concept and is now looking for investors to take the concept forward.

Meanwhile, the Times story quoted Asylbek Toktogulov, chairman of the Trade Unions Federation of Kyrgyzstan, as saying that last year about 4,000 children and young people aged between six and 18 were relieved from having to work in tobacco fields in Kyrgyzstan.

Zimbabwe’s growers distraught as buyers change ‘buying patterns’

| March 18, 2014

Tension was high at tobacco auction floors in Harare, Zimbabwe, last week when angry growers claimed they were being cheated by unscrupulous buyers, according to a story by Phyllis Mbanje for the Zimbabwe Standard.

The situation was said to have been especially volatile at Boka Auction Floors, where farmers pushed for protests against what they said was a deliberate move by buyers to short-change them.

The farmers said the prices they had been receiving, which ranged from US$0.60 to about US$3 per kg, made a mockery of their hard work.

The sight of anti-riot police, who could be seen milling around the premises, further angered the farmers, who believed the police’s presence was meant to intimidate them and stop them from protesting.

Mbanje reported that the police were equipped with full combat gear and were patrolling the premises and its environs in a “menacing manner.”

The story quoted a lot of growers who used terms such as “low by any standards” and “daylight robbery” to describe the prices. Some said they had been paid US$2 per kg when they had received about US$5 per kg last season. Many said they would not be growing tobacco again.

Officials at the auctions said some of the tobacco failed to meet the required grades because it was wet, badly packed or poorly sorted or cured.

Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (TIMB) Chief Executive Officer Andrew Matibiri said buyers had changed their buying patterns and were no longer interested in low-quality tobacco. He dismissed suggestions that buyers were cheating the farmers.

The full story is at http://www.thestandard.co.zw/2014/03/17/broken-hearts-tension-anger-tobacco-auction-floors/.

Santa Fe is a steward of the environment

| March 18, 2014

U.S.-based Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company (SFNTC) has been awarded “Steward” status by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), according to a note posted on the company’s website.

“The Steward designation is the highest in the department’s Environmental Stewardship Initiative,” the note said. “It acknowledges that SFNTC has shown exemplary environmental performance and has gone beyond what is required by law to operate sustainably, conserve natural resources and ultimately promote economic growth in North Carolina.

“To achieve Steward status, organizations undergo a rigorous review. Applications are evaluated by those with a high level of expertise, including state regulators, as well as other Steward organizations. Steward status puts SFNTC into a select group in the state that includes Daimler Trucks North America, Firestone Fibers & Textiles, Michelin Aircraft Tire Company and Thomas Built Buses Inc.”

“Companies such as Santa Fe Natural Tobacco show that economic success and environmental stewardship can go hand in hand,” said John Skvarla, the secretary of DENR. “The demonstrated solid waste reduction, energy reduction and creation of habitat for wildlife show this plant’s commitment to balancing the needs of the environment with the demands of business.”

Saudi city bans all tobacco product sales

| March 17, 2014

A town in Saudi Arabia has banned the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products at all shops as part of plan to become a smoking-free town, according to an Emirates247.com story quoting an Al Riyadh newspaper report.

The southern town of Taif has apparently informed all shops and supermarkets that they should stop selling tobacco and warned them that violators will face tough penalties.

There was no mention of how much notice the retail operators were given.

But the story said that scores of health inspectors had been deployed to check compliance with the decision, which was described as “the first” in the kingdom of nearly 30 million people.

NewCo supporting schools and clinics

| March 17, 2014

NewCo, with the help of its India-based partner, S.B. Impex, last year provided financial assistance to two schools in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, that cater especially for blind children and those who are mentally and/or physically disabled.

The money for this and other projects has been raised following a decision by NewCo a year ago to donate $50 per container of tobacco shipped in support of good causes.

Another project has seen the construction and equipping of a polyclinic that provides acute medical care in Bangladesh.

The NewCo financing pays also for a doctor and medicines.

The clinic, in the region of Kushtia, has been built next to the factory operated by NewCo’s partner, Biswas Tobacco.

NewCo’s third project has been undertaken in the south of Malawi, where the company has built on the property of its partner, R.W.J. Wallace, a wellness clinic and crèche, where the focus is on health and education.

The existence of the crèche allows mothers to go to work while leaving their children in a safe environment.

NewCo says that this year will see it focus on completing these projects while continuing to support them.

More information is at www.newco-online.com, under the social responsibility section.

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