Tobacco ban worries growers, 6/09/10

The ban on Burley and Oriental tobacco, in compliance with an international agreement on tobacco control, would leave only Virginia in the market, said Somnuek Yimpim, the headman of Thap Pueng subdistrict.

The Public Health Ministry is preparing to ratify the pact initiated by the World Health Organisation in 2003.



Three tobacco varieties now dominate the world market and Thailand grows all three: Virginia in the North, Burley in the central region and Oriental in the Northeast.

The WHO plans a meeting in November where 168 member countries are to vote on the final agreement, which was spearheaded by Canada and the European Union.

The panel to draft the tobacco control pact was set up last year with 24 countries including Thailand participating.

“Moves to control new smokers are beyond our control, and I think aggressive campaigns on tobacco control by the Public Health Ministry are very good,” said Mr Somnuek.

“But we have planted Burley tobacco for a living for more than 60 years. What will we do if we can no longer grow it?”

He said tobacco cultivation in Sukhothai took place from November to February and did not overlap with rice growing.

Tobacco also provides a better return than rice because fertiliser and pesticide costs are lower, he said.

Somreung Thanasup, the Wangthong subdistrict headman, said tobacco growers in Sukhothai would join with Burley and Oriental growers in other provinces to ask the ministry to reconsider its position. He estimated that a ban would affect 100,000 families across the country.

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