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Karnataka Hit with Fresh Tobacco Growing Wave

Karnataka farmers switching to tobacco from ginger.

Shipra Singh
Tobacco crop
Tobacco crop

A new wave of tobacco growing can be seen in Karnataka. Even farmers who had switched to ginger farming are returning to tobacco cultivation. Tobacco transplantation has started in the state and it is expected to gain momentum in the coming weeks. Recently, the Tobacco Board fixed the state's crop size for 2021-22 season at 97 million kgs. This is higher than 88 million kgs of last year. 

The President of Federation of Karnataka Virginia Tobacco Growers Association, BV Javare Gowda, said, "We expect the farmers to return to tobacco this year."  

"Karnataka's crop size for 2021-22 is the average for the past three years and is marginally lower than the growers' request of 100 million kgs," he added. "Last year, the crop size had shrunk to 88 million kgs because of Covid-19 pandemic." 

Tobacco flowers
Tobacco flowers

About Virginia tobacco 

Virginia tobacco is chiefly grown in Hassan and Mysuru districts of Karnataka. The area under tobacco is estimated to be 70,000 to 1,00,000 hectares.  

Karnataka is the second biggest tobacco producer in India. Andhra Pradesh tops the list.  

The flue-cured Virginia tobacco is largely exported from the state. It is used for blending with other varieties. According to Gowda, who was the former Vice-Chairman of Tobacco Board, around 80% of Virginia tobacco grown in the state is exported.  

Reasons for farmers returning to tobacco cultivation  

Farmers are getting poor returns from ginger. Moreover, there has been an increase in auction prices for tobacco this year. The average price for 2020-21 auction season was reported to be around Rs. 121 per kg. This was lower than the previous year.  

According to Gowda, last year the crop quality was affected due to heavy rains in the growing areas. This year, during the end of February and the beginning of March, tobacco prices shot up to Rs. 250-260 per kg. This has attracted farmers towards tobacco.  

The Mysuru scene 

According to a statement by the Joint Director of Department of Agriculture, Government of Karnataka, Mahanteshappa, the area under tobacco in Mysuru district is likely to remain between 43,000 hectares and 45,000 hectares this year. This is almost same as last year. The area has, in fact, decreased over the last 7-8 years. Earlier, it used to be around 75,000 hectares.  

According to the Secretary of Federation of Karnataka Virginia Tobacco Growers Association, Vikram Raj Urs, the state has received good pre-monsoon showers in its tobacco growing areas and transplantation is on in 2000 hectares.  

However, Urs differs in opinion to Gowda. According to Urs, not all ginger-growing farmers will return to tobacco. Ginger is an easy crop. Farmers who grew ginger on leased lands had received lower returns.  

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