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"Government Committed to Protecting Farmers' Interests," Says Piyush Goyal at Tobacco Stakeholders Meeting

Union Minister Piyush Goyal highlighted record-high prices for flue-cured Virginia (FCV) tobacco at Rs. 269.91 per kg for 112.35 million kg sold and an unprecedented export value of Rs. 12,005.80 crore (1,449.50 million USD) for FY 2023-24.

Saurabh Shukla
Government Committed to Protecting Farmers' Interests," Says Piyush Goyal at Tobacco Stakeholders Meeting (Photo Source: @PiyushGoyalOffc/X)
Government Committed to Protecting Farmers' Interests," Says Piyush Goyal at Tobacco Stakeholders Meeting (Photo Source: @PiyushGoyalOffc/X)

On June 29, 2024, Piyush Goyal, Union Minister for Commerce and Industry, conducted a meeting with tobacco farmers, manufacturers, and exporters at Novotel, Shamshabad, Hyderabad. During his address, Minister Goyal expressed his satisfaction with the record-high prices achieved for flue-cured Virginia (FCV) tobacco and the exceptional export performance of Indian tobacco for the fiscal year 2023-24.

Minister Goyal highlighted that as of June 27, 2024, farmers have realized an average price of Rs. 269.91 per kilogram for the sale of 112.35 million kilograms of FCV tobacco through electronic auctions organized by the Tobacco Board. Furthermore, he announced that the export value of unmanufactured tobacco and tobacco products had reached an unprecedented Rs. 12,005.80 crore (approximately 1,449.50 million USD), marking an increase of 11.3% in rupee terms and 19.5% in dollar terms compared to previous records.

During the meeting, participants thanked Minister Goyal for the opportunity to voice their concerns. They highlighted several issues faced by tobacco farmers, including labor shortages, lack of support for farm mechanization, high costs of sulphate of potash (SOP) fertilizer, penalties for excess tobacco production, and increased fuel costs for tobacco barns. They sought technological and financial assistance from the government to address these challenges.

Additionally, traders requested the inclusion of tobacco exporters under the RoDTEP scheme to provide export incentives and called for government intervention to curb unauthorized production and usage of chewing tobacco, which significantly impacts government revenue. An increase in illicit cigarette sales was also reported.

Minister Goyal acknowledged the problems faced by tobacco farmers and the industry, assuring them of the government's commitment to protecting their interests. He conveyed that the PM Modi is very sensitive to the farmers' issues and outlined several measures to address their concerns:

  1. Immediate action will be taken to resolve staff shortages in the Tobacco Board.

  2. Efforts will be made to waive penalties on excess tobacco production for the current year.

  3. The validity period of registration for tobacco farmers will be extended from one year to three years, starting from the upcoming season, with both online and offline registration options available.

  4. Farmers were encouraged to utilize the interest subvention facility under the Agriculture Infrastructure Fund, which provides a 3% interest subsidy for developing modern infrastructure in tobacco production.

  5. The Tobacco Board was advised to arrange interest-free higher education loans for the children of tobacco farmers with a seven-year repayment period and to increase financial assistance during natural calamities.

  6. The Director of ICAR-CTRI was tasked with developing mechanization in tobacco cultivation, finding suitable alternatives for SOP fertilizer, identifying plant protection chemicals to avoid objectionable residues, and designing barns that use solar and electric energy for curing tobacco.

The meeting was also attended by D. Purandeshwari, M.P., Rajamahendravaram, Rajesh Agrawal, Additional Secretary, Department of Commerce, Ch. Yashwanth Kumar, Chairman of the Tobacco Board, and Dr. Sridhar Babu Addanki, Executive Director of the Tobacco Board.

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