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FAIFA seeks central aid for tobacco farmers hit by cyclone Nivar

New Delhi,  The Federation of All India Farmer Associations (FAIFA) on Wednesday requested the Centre to provide an immediate relief package for tobacco farmers affected by cyclone Nivar.

Around 22,500 hectares of tobacco plantation has been impacted due to incessant rains, while 5 million kg in curing is exposed to rotting and quality deterioration, it said in a statement.

Not only tobacco, there has been extensive damage to paddy, chilly, bengal gram, cotton and other crops forcing farmers to go for fresh cultivation, it added.

“FAIFA urges the Prime Minister to pay attention to the extreme pain and injury that is being faced by farmers in the region and take steps to provide relief and restore farmer”s confidence,” FAIFA, which represents farmers growing commercial crops across Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Gujarat, among others, said.

A representation has already been made to the Tobacco Board chairman seeking urgent intervention from the central government for immediate relief package to improve the plight of tobacco farmers, the statement said.

FAIFA General Secretary Murali Babu said cyclone Nivar, which hit south India on November 25, has damaged crops in 4.9 lakh hectares in the state of Andhra Pradesh alone.

“Additionally, the cyclone left horticultural crops in about 23,000 acres damaged, causing a loss of Rs 128 crore as per initial estimates,” he said.

According to FAIFA, incessant rain due to the cyclone has particularly turned to be a bane for Flue-Cured Virginia (FCV) tobacco farmers and Vinukonda Burley farmers of Prakasam and Guntur districts where freshly sowed saplings planted across 10,000 hectares have been adversely impacted due to water logging.

Water inundation was also noticed in the middle and late plantations in 5,000 hectares.

“The impact is so severe that the assessment of damage to the leaf and infrastructure is still in progress,” it said.

In burley growing regions of Guntur and Prakasam districts of Andhra Pradesh, where harvesting had commenced in more than 7,500 hectares, there was a complete leaf loss in curing barns.

Besides, due to unexpected heavy rains and high winds, 5 million kgs in curing is exposed to rotting and quality deterioration, it added.

FAIFA National Spokesperson Yashwanth Chidipothu said tobacco farmers are already facing business losses of over Rs 6,000 crore with a drop in FCV tobacco production from 325 million kg in 2014-15 to 210 million kg in 2019-20.

“Their situation got further worsened due to COVID-19 pandemic and just when they were trying to recuperate from the heavy economic losses, spell of heavy rains last week just after the plantation season has further dampened farmers” confidence with significant loss,” he said.

This can be understood from the fact that out of more than 30,000 hectares that has been planted in traditional tobacco growing region (Prakasam, Nellore and West Godavari), 50 per cent of the crop has been heavily impacted due to submergence, he added. PTI