Submitted by Norm on Thu, 08/22/2019 - 05:06

The Apparamadhange family – owner of 2 hectares (5 acres) of tobacco-growing landWhy UCANX: "The tobacco industry has a strong hand of control throughout the tobacco cycle from seed to sale, but the devastation it causes is ultimately borne by governments, tobacco workers, users and their families, creating a seemingly endless cycle of poverty, destruction and death.” Commissioning agents, who buy tobacco from farmers, control the market. Final price agreements with each individual tobacco farmer is done secretly, using a code and covering their hands under a white towel. With no government-run tobacco board, the market is unregulated and there is no organisation providing financial support to farmers.

P Jayarama (centre), auction superintendent of the Tobacco Board auction floor, accepting bids for the exhibited tobacco bales
P Jayarama (centre), auction superintendent of the Tobacco Board auction floor, accepting bids for the exhibited tobacco bales

Periyapatna, India
P Jayarama (centre), auction superintendent of the Tobacco Board auction floor, accepting bids for the exhibited tobacco bales. Tobacco prices range between $1 and $2.50 per kg. Auctions can last between two to five months, during which Tobacco Board officials grade tobacco bales and offer purchase prices. Mounting debts and low prices on the auction floor have triggered a number of suicides among tobacco farmers in the major tobacco growing states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Telangana.

Nipani, India
Tobacco labourer Dipali Lohar in a mixed field with bidi tobacco and sorgum. This technique helps farmers reduce their dependency on tobacco.

Nipani, India
The Apparamadhange family – owner of 2 hectares (5 acres) of tobacco-growing land – drying their yearly production. They have been planting bidi tobacco for the last 18 years. Tobacco is a labour-intensive crop and farmers work from June to January. Commissioning agents, who buy tobacco from farmers, control the market. Final price agreements with each individual tobacco farmer is done secretly, using a code and covering their hands under a white towel. With no government-run tobacco board, the market is unregulated and there is no organisation providing financial support to farmers.

Lucama, North Carolina, US
A seasonal worker in front of a tobacco curing barn at Sullivan Farms. Buying and running barns is expensive and farmers complain about the increasingly lower prices paid by tobacco companies for leaves, commenting that “if a pack of cigarettes costs $5, farmers get about 5c.’ In the US, the tobacco crop is worth $1.5bn yearly, yet more than half of the tobacco content of cigarettes made in the United States comes from foreign countries.