Thousands of tobacco farmers in Jember, East Java, have been struggling to market their tobacco this year after their plants were completely or partly damaged by the recent eruptions of Mount Raung, according to a story in The Jakarta Post.
Suwarno, a farmer of Na Oogst tobacco in Balung district, was quoted as saying that previous harvests had fetched Rp80,000 (US$5.42) per kg.
But this season, 2,000 kg of newly harvested tobacco from Suwarno’s one-ha field lie in his barn while buyers stay away.
“I was lucky that I still could harvest the tobacco, even though no one’s bought it,” he said. “Other farmers just let their tobacco rot in their fields because they couldn’t afford to harvest it.”
Suwarno, who leads the Jember branch of the Association of Indonesian Tobacco Farmers (APTI), said he had spent about Rp75 million on planting and maintaining his tobacco before Mt. Raung, located on the border between the Jember, Bondowoso and Banyuwangi regencies, erupted several times between early July and late August.
Meanwhile, Abdurrachman, a Vor Oogst tobacco farmer from Pakusari district, took a sample of his tobacco to a local cigarette company, which told him that every three kg of his tobacco contained about 300 g of volcanic ash.
A recent meeting involving local authorities, farmers and exporters ended, according to Suwarno, in deadlock after the exporters that usually bought tobacco from the growers decided not to buy Na Oogst tobacco and only to buy Vor Oogst tobacco under strict conditions.
Abdurrachman has asked the government to intervene by, for example, providing compensatory aid to farmers, whom he said could be considered victims of natural disaster.
“We ask the government to be fair,” he said. “Most of the farmers depend on this year’s yield for next year’s production costs. Without compensation or aid, how will they survive?”