Federation of All India Farmer Associations (FAIFA) Demand Action Against Unfriendly Cash Crop Policies to Safeguard Farmer Livelihoods
- Challenges the merits of larger Graphic Health Warnings towards delivering tobacco control goals
- Outcome is only explosive growth of illicit and smuggled tobacco at 31% annually, directly taking away farmer livelihoods in India
- Challenges Government decision to cut tobacco cultivation without providing viable alternative livelihood solutions
- Demand CBI enquiry against health activists and their money trail whose hidden agenda is to benefit foreign growers and business syndicates
- Made representations to Ministers of Commerce, Agriculture and Labour. Delegations planned to Ministers of Finance, Health and the Prime Minister
Representatives of Federation of All India Farmer Associations (FAIFA), a body of farmers associations from South, West and North India engaged in cultivation of cash crops today congregated in Hyderabad to demand immediate Government intervention against Graphic Health Warning directive by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on tobacco packaging, which envisages a revision in the existing warning from 40% of the pack front to 85% of both sides of the pack.
Illegal and contraband cigarettes do not carry any mandated health warnings thereby creating an impression that such products are safer over legal, regulation-abiding domestic products. This along with high taxes on legal cigarettes has led to quantum growth of illegal tobacco and cigarettes. The farmers fear that the larger graphic health warnings if implemented will further lead to increased growth of illegal and smuggled cigarettes in India, thereby affecting their livelihoods.
Moreover, none of the other top ten tobacco growing countries in the world has adopted such an extreme position on graphic health warnings. In fact, large tobacco growing countries like China, United States, Indonesia and Zimbabwe have not adopted over-sized, large health warnings. United States, for instance, has text-based health warnings only on the side panel of the packs while China has text-based warnings covering only 30% of front and back panels. The existing warning on cigarette packets in India is already more than that of the top ten tobacco growing countries.
Tobacco is an important cash crop as it is immune from climatic variations and can grow in irrigation deficient regions, still a number of farmers have committed suicides in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, something which never happened before. The farmers demand action against lopsided tobacco control policies blinded by anti-farmer activists and urged an immediate correction.
Government instead of providing solutions, have issued orders to tobacco farmers in Andhra Pradesh to cut tobacco cultivation by 52 million kgs next year. A sudden call for cutting production is going to be difficult to absorb for farmers already under debt, as consumption for FCV tobacco has already been going down over the years.
Current tobacco control measures have not been successful in reducing tobacco consumption, while on the contrary the Indian farmers, the legal tobacco industry and the state exchequer have all suffered heavily. Extreme regulations produce counter-productive results. They do not reduce demand for tobacco, but merely shift it from the legal segment to cheaper, regulation non-compliant illegal options of suspect quality, thereby undermining public health objectives. It is not surprising therefore, that while consumption of legal cigarettes in India has reduced from 21% in 1981/82 to 12% today overall tobacco consumption in India has not declined.
FAIFA members have already met Ministers of Commerce, Agriculture and Labour to demand immediate correction in unfriendly policies, and are planning delegations to Ministers of Finance, Health and finally the Prime Minister.