Tobacco farming up in Rangpur despite discouragement

Published : 07 Feb 2023 09:43 PM | Updated : 07 Feb 2023 09:43 PM

Despite the loss of soil fertility, health risks and adverse effects on the environment, tobacco cultivation continues in the Rangpur region. Due to the discouragement of tobacco cultivation by the agriculture department, cultivation decreased slightly last year but this year, tobacco cultivation has increased again. If this trend continues, there is a danger of disrupting food production.

Farmers said that they are turning to tobacco cultivation due to non-availability of fair price for the produce and incentives given by various companies.

According to the sources of Agriculture Extension Department, tobacco production continues in this region. Tobacco is grown mostly in fertile land. It can be seen that the production of various types of food grains including rice, wheat, maize, jute, pulses, mustard is more than the desired target. Even after meeting the local demand, almost half of the produce is supplied to various districts. But in recent years the amount of land for food crops has decreased and tobacco cultivation has increased. If this trend continues, the agriculture department is afraid of disrupting the necessary food production in the greater Rangpur region.

It is known that British American Tobacco (BATB), Dhaka Tobacco, Abul Khair, Jamil Group, Akiz Group, Nasir Group and other companies have developed tobacco industry in this region. In order to keep the supply of raw materials of these industries intact, various materials including fertilizers, seeds, pesticides are being given to the farmers as incentives. As a result, the agriculture department advised farmers to produce alternative crops including wheat, lentil, chickpea, pea, corn, mustard, but they are not getting good results. Farmers continue to grow tobacco due to not getting fair price for the crop and hoping for higher profits.

These produced copper are being made into bidis, cigarettes, gul, jorda in various factories of the region.

Revenue is evading the marketing of these products. There is also a thriving business in fake bandrolls. This business is not new today. For a long time, a syndicate has been evading crores of revenue by committing such frauds.

During the investigation, it was found that the bidis with fake brandrolls and those without bandrolls of different types of fake companies in various market places.

Among all the bidis found are Saima bidi Haragach, Rangpur. Bride and Kabir Bidi Poddar Para, Haragach, Rangpur. Harin Bidi, No. 1 New Harin Bidi, Birampur, Dinajpur. Jamuna Bidi Gangachra, Rangpur. No. 1 Harin Bidi Haragach, Mia Para, Rangpur. Seven Bidi Dior, Dinajpur. Pink Special Bidi and Sardar Bidi, No. 1 Sagar Bidi Nazirdah, Haragach, Rangpur. There are also Namzada Bidi, Anchar Bidi, Motar Bidi. Some of the above bidi factories are manufacturing and marketing unlicensed bidis. Most bidis do not have Income Tax ETIN and VAT BIN (Business Identification Number) so it is not possible to identify them.

These bidis produced by evading government revenue are being seized in the ongoing raids of customs during marketing but this small loss is not affecting them.

Fraudulent gangs are stealing crores of rupees every year by putting fake bands on the packets of fake company's bidis and selling them in various markets of North Bengal, especially Nilphamari, Rangpur.

Recently Dhaka University BER and Bangladesh Network for Tobacco Tax Policy (BNTTP) published the results of a joint study. According to the information obtained from the field level, the maximum retail price printed on a 20-pack of cigarettes is Tk 270, but it is sold at an average of Tk 294.29. High grade cigarettes are selling at an average of Tk 229.88 instead of TK 204, middle grade cigarettes are selling at Tk 135.86 instead of Tk 126 and low grade cigarettes are selling at Tk 95.15 instead of Tk 78. In the case of bidis too, it is being sold at prices higher than the maximum price. As a result, the government is losing thousands of crores of revenue every year as cigarettes and bidis continue to be sold at prices higher than the maximum retail price. The study also revealed that cigarettes and bidis are sold at prices higher than the maximum retail price in wholesale shops.

The published research mainly collected data from 12 cities. In this case, data has been collected from a total of 48 retail outlets, four from each city. The information is taken from retail outlets in public places as defined in the Smoking and Use of Tobacco Products (Control) Act. Besides, the information of two total 24 wholesale sales centers has been taken from the said 12 cities.

The study recommended that specific taxation should be imposed instead of ad valorem taxation to increase government revenue and curb evasion. Besides, digital system should be introduced for market and sales monitoring and tax collection of each product. The four-tier tax structure for cigarettes should be brought down to one tier consistently. Apart from banning the retail sale of cigarettes and bidis, punitive measures should be taken to prevent tax evasion. Emphasis is also placed on formulating a national tobacco tax policy to address the overall problem of tobacco control and to build a tobacco-free Bangladesh by 2040.