Aung Kaung Zaw | DMG
24 January, Manaung
The number of tobacco farmers in Arakan State’s Manaung Township has dropped as growers of the leaf are finding that their income cannot cover production costs.
Tobacco cultivation was once fairly commonplace in the township, but in recent years the ranks of tobacco farmers have declined, according to U Aung Kyaw Min, who once grew tobacco himself.
“We have to pay K7,000 [US$4.67] to each worker per day. If we earn about K1 million [US$667] from selling tobacco leaves, the labor cost is around K700,000 [US$467]. So many farmers no longer want to cultivate tobacco because it is not a commercially profitable crop,” he said.
The tobacco is categorized into three types — small, medium and large-leaf — to be sold at market. A viss (3.6 pounds) of large tobacco leaves sold for about K15,000 (US$10) in the past but the price has fallen to only 30,000 (US$20) for five viss of tobacco leaves, according to local farmers.
“We will be OK if the government provides financial assistance to tobacco farmers,” former tobacco grower Ko Tun Aung said.
Asked whether the government would contribute financial and technical assistance to tobacco growers, U Tun Saw, an official from Manaung Township’s Department of Agriculture, said the department is planning to share agricultural techniques and supply pesticides to local tobacco farmers.
Locally produced tobacco leaves are exported to other townships in Arakan State such as Kyaukphyu, Sittwe, Thandwe and Pauktaw.
In Manaung Township, tobacco is mostly grown by farmers from Nyaungkon, Zaipin, Dawdankon, Phetyar, Kantkawtaw and Chaung Narsu villages.