Tobacco farming destroying agri sector in Rangpur

Published : 29 Jan 2022 09:49 PM

Although potato has been cultivated in more than 50,000 hectares of land in Rangpur this year as an alternative crop, tobacco cultivation has not been decreased in the area. Due to the complexity of seed acquisition in alternative crop production, high production cost, non-availability of fair price of the product and lack of storage facilities, farmers are still vulnerable to tobacco cultivation. On top of that, tobacco related organizations are motivating the farmers with loans. As a result, despite the government's discouragement, farmers in Rangpur are not giving up tobacco cultivation.

In Taraganj upazila of Rangpur, a signboard reading 'Drug Free Area' has been hung in this upazila filled with green crop fields. But in reality, the picture here is the opposite. Fields of this region is full with tobacco plant. Keeping local upazila administration in dark, various companies are giving additional benefits to the farmers in tobacco cultivation without any capital. Farmers are cultivating tobacco with the hope of increasing profits. As a result, crop fields are being threatened day by day. This image of knowingly cultivating poison is not only in Taraganj. Apart from Rangpur district, tobacco cultivation is also increasing in Lalmonirhat, Kurigram, Gaibandha and Nilphamari.

 In the Rangpur region, which is famous for its food grain production, the frustration of not getting a fair price for agricultural crops including paddy and potato every year brings tears to the eyes of the farmers. Taking advantage of this opportunity, the representatives of various tobacco related companies scattered in the villages are handing over the seeds of poisonous tobacco to the farmers for free. Conscious quarters claim that if effective steps are not taken now to stop tobacco cultivation, food production in this northern town will decrease in the coming days.

It can be seen on the ground that although potato was cultivated in a large area as a Rabi season crop in Rangpur region, it did not have any effect on tobacco cultivation. Wherever the eye goes, there are only tobacco fields. Especially the Teesta shelf is covered with tobacco. Farmers are busy irrigating tobacco fields, collecting leaves and drying them. Apart from the Teesta Char of Gangachara, vast crop fields of different areas including Paglapir of Rangpur Sadar, Mominpur, Shaleyasa of Taraganj, Bara Hazratpur of Mithapukur, Tambulpur of Pirgachha, Sanai of Kaunia seem to be covered with greenery. But in fact, it is not a crop. Behind the green, each leaf vein, each tobacco plant growing with toxic nicotine in the veins. Ahmed Ali and Osman Gani from Palichara area of Rangpur Sadar said, "I plant crops all year round. But when it comes to prices, there is no need to cry over the thought of saving capital. There is no such tension in tobacco cultivation. Being a company, you get extra benefits, you also earn more. But the poor have the benefit of earning an income. Loan facility as well as seeds and fertilizers are available from the company. Again, there is no worry about marketing. Moreover, potato cultivation as an alternative crop costs a lot of money.’

According to the investigation, at one time tobacco was the main crop of Rangpur region. The Virginia variety of tobacco was highly valued by the major tobacco companies in the country. Traders from the region built a huge network around the country around tobacco. Small traders used to make a lot of money by trading tobacco without any capital. At that time bidi, cigarette, gul, jorda and other tobacco related organizations were formed in this area. Keeping in view the needs of the farmers of the area, according to the survey of the then British government, a tobacco research center was established at Burirhat in Rangpur in 1906. The company collected 114 varieties of tobacco from within the country and abroad at that time.