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Goalado farmers being lured in tobacco cultivation for extra profit

Goalado farmers being lured in tobacco cultivation for extra profit

Moynul Haque Mridha, Rajbari

The farmers of Goalando upazila of Rajbari are being lured by local and foreign tobacco companies and are interested in growing poisonous tobacco for extra profit.

Knowing that tobacco cultivation is harmful to the soil, environment and health, they are leaning towards it. As a result, tobacco cultivation is increasing day by day in the upazila.

Tobacco cultivation is increasing day by day in Ujanchar, Chotabhakala, Devgram, Daulatdia Union and Municipality of the upazila. It is destroying the fertility of the land. For a long time tobacco cultivation made it difficult to cultivate other crops on the land. Apart from this, the farmers of the upazila are cultivating tobacco despite knowing that it is harmful to health.

According to the Upazila Agriculture Extension Department, in the fiscal year 2021-22, tobacco cultivation is carried out on 1.50 hectares of land in Daulatdia and 3 hectares in Ujanchar among the four unions of Goalando. In the financial year 2022-23, tobacco cultivation was done on 1 hectare in Daulatdia and 4 hectares in Ujanchar and in 2023-24, 1 hectare in Daulatdia and 7 hectares in Ujanchar. According to them, the amount of tobacco has doubled in two years. Among them, Ujanchar union has the highest number.

It can be seen that the farmers of the remote areas of the upazila are also tending to tobacco cultivation. That is, the amount of tobacco cultivation at the field level is more. In these unions of the upazila, the tobacco companies are making the farmers grow tobacco by showing the greed of extra profit.

Farmers said that cultivation has been done several times more than the agriculture department's estimate. They are unable to get out of tobacco farming due to various reasons. Representatives of different companies are plowing the fields and encouraging them to grow tobacco. As a result, new farmers are added every year.

Local tobacco farmers said that they could not make much profit by cultivating food grains on the land. The total cost of tobacco cultivation per bigha of land including seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and maintenance is 25 to 30 thousand taka. A part of which is spent on easy terms by tobacco companies. The price is also available, there is no possibility of loss. That is why they are more inclined towards tobacco cultivation.

Nekbar Ali, a farmer of Habil Mandal neighborhood of Ujanchar union of the upazila, said that there is a lot of work and health risks in tobacco cultivation, yet they are cultivating toxic tobacco. Because there is no worry about growing and selling tobacco and there is no possibility of loss.

A farmer named Mubarak Sheikh said that last year he cultivated tobacco on five bigha land. He cultivated tobacco as a companion crop in onion cultivation. Tobacco is injurious to health. But the profit is also increasing.

Sobahan Sheikh, another farmer of the same union, said that he has planted tobacco on 4 bigha land. The company provides Tk 4,000 for planting tobacco on an acre of land, a 50 kg bag of fertilizer worth Tk 6,000, a triple (to cover tobacco leaves) worth Tk 5,000, hand socks, masks and special shoes. The company will deduct all the money including the previous loan amount while buying the tobacco leaves. The companies said that tobacco leaves will be sold at a price of Tk 175 per kg this year.

Ujanchar is drying tobacco with his wife and two children. Hamid Sheikh When talking about the presence of poison in tobacco leaves, he said that the profit in tobacco cultivation is more than other crops. Besides, one day I will die. That's why I'm not afraid of doing them anymore. We don't need any security. Wash hands with soap before eating rice.

British-America Tobacco Company's responsible field worker. Mamun said on the phone, nothing is given for free from the company. For the convenience of farmers, interest-free loans are provided for the cost of planting tobacco per acre, including fertilizers, seeds, and accessories. This money is deducted while buying tobacco and the remaining money is explained to the farmer.

Laxman Kumar, Deputy Assistant Agriculture Officer in charge of Ujanchar Union, said that actually several times more tobacco has been cultivated than their estimate. Even though the farmers are convinced, they are leaning towards tobacco cultivation without thinking about the loss of health and land in the hope of extra profit.

Upazila Health Complex Resident Medical Officer Dr. Shariful Islam said that tobacco and tobacco products are very harmful to the body. Various harmful products including jorda, gul, bidi, cigarettes are made from tobacco. Tobacco processing and use also increases the risk of mouth cancer, high blood pressure, brain stroke, and heart attack. Apart from this, the people around the area where tobacco is cultivated are also at risk of suffering from various diseases including respiratory problems and skin diseases.

Upazila Agriculture Officer. Khokon Uzzaman said that tobacco cultivation is harmful, more or less everyone knows it. Heard that tobacco farmers are cultivating tobacco with companion crops for more profit with the help of cigarette companies. They are also worried about the increase in tobacco cultivation.

They are conducting regular meetings and seminars at the field level to discourage harmful tobacco cultivation and make the farmers aware of the harmful aspects. So that they leave tobacco farming and return to foodgrain farming.

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