Support for leaf export levy

| June 14, 2018

Some anti-tobacco campaigners and economists in Bangladesh have said that the withdrawal of a 25 percent customs duty on leaf-tobacco exports would encourage growers to cultivate more tobacco, despite the health and environmental hazards the crop poses, according to a story in The Dhaka Tribune.

In his recent budget speech, Finance Minister A.M.A. Muhith said he had proposed the withdrawal of the customs duty in order ‘to reduce domestic consumption by encouraging exports’.

However, anti-tobacco campaigners and economists condemned the move, expressing fears that farmers would put more focus on tobacco cultivation and eschew other crops if the customs duty were removed.

“When Bangladesh is supposed to be reducing the production of tobacco, it is giving incentives to increase production by withdrawing duties on exports instead,” Dr. M Asaduzzaman, distinguished fellow of the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, reportedly told the Tribune.

If the customs duty were withdrawn, farmers would get better prices and would be encouraged to cultivate more tobacco while shifting away from other crops, he added.

The economist said also that if the government wanted to reduce domestic tobacco consumption, it needed to take stricter measures than incentivizing exports.

Meanwhile, A.B.M. Zubair, executive director of the anti-tobacco NGO, Progga, said Bangladesh’s food security would come under threat if the duty were removed, not only because farmers might shift away from food crops, but also because tobacco cultivation had a negative impact on the fertility of the soil and the environment.

The Tribune reported that, according to a report by the World Health Organization titled Tobacco and its environmental impact: an overview, tobacco cultivation is associated with land degradation or desertification in the form of soil erosion, reduced soil fertility and productivity, and the disruption of water cycles.

The report said that cultivation and curing of tobacco were both direct causes of deforestation, because forests were cleared for tobacco plantations and wood was burned to cure the leaves.

Moreover, chemicals used to control a weed commonly found in the tobacco fields of Bangladesh were found to have been polluting aquatic environments and destroying fish supplies, as well as soil organisms needed to maintain soil health.

Farming communities were exposed to health risks caused by the chemical pollution of their environment because tobacco growers used abnormal fertilizers and chemicals to attain higher yields.

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Category: Breaking News, Leaf, People, Tax

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