Tobacco Growers Face Difficult Economic Situation

May 3rd, 2012 00:00

For the past 15 years, farmer Bernadette Guya wakes up at 4 a.m. and works for the next 12 hours cultivating tobacco plant. She spends all that time watering and cutting the crop, and carrying for each leaf. Guya earns approximately $1,169 from the sale of tobacco leaves, five months after planting, which is a very low income in comparison to a huge work. Unfortunately for Guya, a 38-year widow, it is the only means for her to earn money.

With domestic cigarette consumption increasing and giant tobacco companies choosing the Philippines as the main source of raw, tobacco has currently became one of the country’s developing and spreading crop.

Last year, production grew by 10.87% or almost twice the average 5.74% growth rate for all cultivating crops. Tobacco exports increased from 42.8 million kilograms in 2008 to 55.67 million kilograms in 2010, producing about $270 million in export proceeds.

However farmers as Guya do not benefit from these profits. The largest tobacco producer Ilocos Sur, registered the highest boost in poverty rate, from 22.5 to 26.6%, according to the National Statistics Coordination Board. Only in this province more than 30,000 farmers are considered poor.

Tobacco Growers Face

So neglected by the government, tobacco farmers have recently become a centerpiece in the debate over the advised sin tax reform in Congress.

Cigarette manufacturers state that increasing sin taxes will decrease consumption, destroy the industry and ruin tobacco growers. Meanwhile tobacco control representatives state that part of the profit will be used to help farmers switch to other crops.

But for the majority of tobacco farmers whose fate is supposed to depend on the passage of the bill the main concern is not whether sin taxes will raise or not. What they expect about is whether those sin taxes will be allocated to help support their needs.

“The tobacco industry stated that the higher sin tax will affect us. But at the same time if the given sin taxes increase, so the revenue that is supposed to finance tobacco farmers will also grow. This will for sure help us,” stared Avelino Dacanay, representative of the Solidarity of Peasants against Exploitation.

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