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Farmers' Body Opposes WHO's Recommendation to Replace Tobacco Farming

While WHO's recommendations aim to address public health concerns and foster sustainable agricultural practices, it is essential to carefully evaluate the potential socio-economic consequences before implementing any sweeping changes in the tobacco industry.

Shivam Dwivedi
Farmers' Body Opposes WHO's Recommendation to Replace Tobacco Farming (Photo Source: Pixabay)
Farmers' Body Opposes WHO's Recommendation to Replace Tobacco Farming (Photo Source: Pixabay)

In response to the World Health Organization's (WHO) recent recommendation to replace tobacco with alternative crops, representatives of the Federation of All India Farmer Associations (FAIFA) have expressed opposition.

In a letter addressed to the PMO and the finance ministry, FAIFA representatives labeled the WHO's suggestions as ‘unscientific’ and argued that there are no discernible benefits to be gained from transitioning away from tobacco cultivation.

FAIFA, an umbrella organization representing millions of farmers and farm workers cultivating commercial crops across Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, and Gujarat, cited a study conducted by the Central Tobacco Research Institute (CTRI). According to the study, attempts to switch to alternative crops such as grams and paddy in Andhra Pradesh resulted in significant financial losses for tobacco farmers compared to their previous earnings from tobacco cultivation.

The farmer body argued that India should not blindly follow the WHO's recommendations, as they are based on a "one-size-fits-all" approach derived from a "Western model of tobacco consumption." FAIFA emphasized that these recommendations do not necessarily serve the purpose of tobacco control or revenue enhancement in a country like India. Furthermore, they raised concerns that millions of livelihoods would be adversely affected without conducting proper agro-climatic studies.

Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, the WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia, stressed the need for strategies to reduce tobacco supply in order to achieve an overall reduction in tobacco use prevalence. Dr. Singh made these remarks on the eve of this year's World No Tobacco Day, with the theme "We need food, not tobacco."

The WHO's campaign aims to raise awareness about alternative crop production and marketing opportunities for tobacco farmers, encouraging them to grow sustainable crops. The campaign also seeks to expose the tobacco industry's interference in an attempt to substitute tobacco cultivation with sustainable crops, which contributes to the global food crisis.

Dr. Singh highlighted that the tobacco industry often presents itself as an advocate for the livelihood of tobacco farmers. In the region, the industry frequently utilizes tobacco growers and workers as front groups to rally against tobacco control measures. Dr. Singh's statement emphasized the need to prioritize the health and well-being of individuals over the interests of the tobacco industry.

The opposition expressed by FAIFA and the concerns raised regarding the potential negative impacts on the livelihoods of tobacco farmers illustrate the complexities surrounding the issue of transitioning away from tobacco cultivation.

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