Officials of the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) said cultivation of tobacco is decreasing despite lucrative incentives being provided by tobacco companies.
“The number of farmers involved with tobacco farming decreased in last five years though many of them are cultivating the same on their lands now,” Horticulture Specialist of the DAE at its regional office Khondker Md Mesbahul Islam said.
The DAE and other agriculture and environment related departments, organizations and institutions are discouraging tobacco cultivation to save soil fertility, public health and environment from hazards and pollution.
“The farmers have started realizing the negative impacts of tobacco cultivation following motivational activities being conducted by different government and non-governmental organizations,” Islam said.
The farmers have brought 13,742 hectares of land under tobacco cultivation during this 2018-2019 seasons in five districts of Rangpur agriculture region where they cultivated the crop on 13,058 hectares of land during the 2017-2018 seasons.
Earlier, farmers cultivated tobacco on 14,225 hectares of land during the 2016-2017 seasons, 16,407 hectares of land during the 2015-2016 seasons and 18,265 hectares of land during the 2014-2015 seasons in the region.
“Cultivation of tobacco continued showing downward trend on an average in the last five consecutive seasons in the region,” Islam said.
Farmers Yasin Ali, Dulal Hossain, Abdul Khaleque and Azizul Islam of Kathihara village in Sadar upazila of Rangpur said they have cultivated tobacco on one acre to three acres of land this season like in the previous seasons.
They said they had been cultivating tobacco during the past one decade to earn more profits after getting incentives, necessary inputs, cost-free seedling and fertilizers from tobacco companies with an assurance of lucrative prices.
Farmers Abdul Haque and Lutfar Rahman of different villages in Rangpur said they earned better profits last season when tobacco companies purchased tobacco at rates between Taka 100 and 105 per kilogram.
Farmer Echhahaq Ali of village Kathihara in Rangpur said he left tobacco cultivation two years back and switched over to cultivation of winter crops and Boro rice for saving soil health and environment though farming of tobacco is highly profitable.
Project Coordinator of Association for Community Development (ACD) Ehsanul Amin Emon blamed tobacco companies for providing incentives to the farmers to encourage them in farming tobacco posing a threat to public health, environment and ecology.
Agriculturist Dr Md Abdul Mazid, who got the Independence Award 2018 Medal (food security) last year, said the farmers could earn more profits by farming wheat, mustard and sugarcane with other winter crops in relay methods using latest technologies.
He suggested the farmers to begin cultivation of more profitable and substitute crops to tobacco in relay methods as tobacco farming poses a real threat to cereal crop output affecting food security, human and soil health and environment.