Tobacco farmers nix plan to reduce crop

The Central Java administration’s plan to reduce the amount of tobacco under cultivation in the province will hurt farmers, according to a tobacco farming association.

The administration previously announced plans to reduce the amount of land dedicated to tobacco cultivation from 45,930 hectares to 26,000 hectares.

The province currently produces 39,000 tons of tobacco a year, according to reports.

The Indonesian Tobacco Farmers Association (APTI) secretary-general Boedidaya said that any reduction in tobacco cultivation would disrupt supplies and limit the ability of farmers to deliver on previously established commitments.

“Discussions on the reduction plan have been going on since 2000 and are still continuing. We want certainty,” Boedidaya said in Semarang, Central Java, over the weekend.

Boedidaya added that it would not be easy to cultivate new crops immediately on land that had been previously dedicated to tobacco.

Separately, the head of the Central Java Horticulture Agency’s production division, Endang Ratnasari, said the plan under consideration would balance supply and demand with cigarette companies and would benefit the farmers.

Local farmers were producing more tobacco than could currently be sold, Endang said.

“The provincial administration needs to make sure that all the tobacco produced by the farmers can be absorbed by the cigarette companies. That is why controlling tobacco planting is necessary.”

Limiting production would increase the quality of tobacco produced in Central Java, Endang added.

Some areas of the province have been producing superior tobacco, she said, including the tobacco powerhouses of Temanggung, Kendal, Demak, Magelang, Boyolali and Wonosobo regencies.

However, differences in local conditions have hindered tobacco production outside those areas.

“We will start by intensifying the familiarization activities. Otherwise, production will boom while there is no increase in the demand,” Ednang said.

PT Gudang Garam, for example, needed only 14,000 tons of tobacco this year, while PT Djarum needed only 10,000 tons, Edang said, adding that the amount of tobacco needed would not increase over the next three years.

“With an adequate harvest and good quality product, control over tobacco cultivation will also maintain a good price of the commodity in the market,” she said.

The tobacco fields slated for conversion were outside the province’s traditional tobacco powerhouses, she said.

“Tobacco plantations located outside these regions will be controlled and redirected to plant other commodities such as sugar cane or coffee,” Endang said.

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