Tobacco ryots pin hopes on CM’s China visit

Tobacco growers of Prakasam district have urged Chief Minister N.Chandrababu Naidu to bail them out by getting special export orders from China, with the e-auctioning remaining lacklustre even three weeks after the commencement of trade.

The ryots, who have contributed to more than 50 per cent of the State’s total tobacco production of around 185 million kg this year, could manage to sell only 3.31 million kg of ‘mixed styles’ of the produce till this week, with a handful of buyers actively taking part in the e-auctions.

“Mr. Naidu should make use of his China visit to bag special export orders of at least 20 million kg from Beijing,” a group of farmers at the Ongole-II platform pleaded. They are pinning high hopes on the trade delegation to be led by Tobacco Board Chairman K. Gopal to Egypt later this month to promote Indian tobacco free of pesticide residue and non-tobacco-related material (NTRM).

“We expect the Chairman to explore new markets,” they said, referring to the Board’s efforts to woo international buyers from England, Poland and Thailand this marketing season.

The growers, who have produced 13 million kg of tobacco more than the authorised crop size of 172 million kg, could get an average price of Rs 119.32 per kg. While 2.32 million kg of bright grade tobacco fetched Rs. 122.60 per kg, buyers offered Rs. 111.99 per kg for trading 0.97 million kg of medium grade of the produce, Tobacco Board sources said, adding that 0.02 million kg of low grade produce got the ryots Rs. 90.36 per kg.

Trading in neighbouring Karnataka is yet to be completed, with 12.17 million kg of the total authorised crop of 101.65 kg remaining unsold. “The market is expected to pick up, once the e-auctions in Karnataka closes by April third week,” said Tobacco Board Regional Manager G. Bhaskar Reddy.

“Farmers are a worried lot, with the traders forming into a cartel, denying fair prices to the bright grade tobacco,” Virginia Tobacco Growers Association president Ch. Seshaiah said.

The Centre should allow international cigarette manufacturing companies and international tobacco merchants to directly take part in the auctions , former Tobacco Board member Ch. Ranga Rao opined.

The Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry should ask the Tobacco Board to intervene in the market, said Mr. M. Bangara Babu, a farmer from Nagulapupadu.

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