Why do farmers grow tobacco?
Tobacco-farmers all over the world are frequently confronted with the question as to why they choose to grow tobacco rather than other crop. Below we enlist some of the strongest arguments in favour of tobacco-growing.
- Tobacco is a legally traded agricultural commodity for which, in global terms, there continues to be brisk demand.
- Tobacco can grow on soils with low fertility, subject to leaching of nutrients and erosion. Some tobaccos, such as the Oriental type, are also best grown in arid environments. Such conditions are invariably not suitable for successful production of other crops.
- In many areas where tobacco is grown, crops grow after the cultivation of tobacco, benefiting from the residual fertilisers in the soil.
- Tobacco growing is a labour- intensive activity that requires vast expertise of farming techniques. The 'know-how' these farmers acquire in tobacco growing frequently proves invaluable in the cultivation of other crops.
- Areas that are distant from air and shipping ports are unsuitable for crops grown in bulk, unless the crop yields high returns that allow for the travel costs to be covered.
- Being less perishable than most other potential alternative crops, tobacco can easily be stored.
- There is no better cash crop in most environments suited to tobacco.
- Tobacco enjoys very high price stability.
- As a rule, sale is guaranteed and price negotiated or determined by free auctions.
- Tobacco is, in many areas of the world, the only crop paid for in cash on delivery, or very shortly after.
- In tobacco areas holdings are generally small, requiring high value cash crops to ensure family income.
- Tobacco yields high returns per acre.
- Tobacco-growing attracts sound infrastructure providing financial aid, technical assistance, transport and storage.
- Successful production of other crops and animal rearing is often more feasible when a high value crop, such as tobacco, is part of the farming system.
- The wealth generated by leaf tobacco production helps to improve quality of life and attracts educational, health and social facilities in, otherwise, relatively impoverished, rural areas.
All in all, the above factors, allied to the profitability of tobacco, make the search for realistic alternative crops an extremely difficult task.