Cultivation of tobacco, which used to be grown on a vast area in Rangpur, has seen a decline this year in comparison with previous seasons as the farmers realise its bad impact on the health of the growers and the consumers.
Rangpur Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) Senior Agriculture Officer Sajidur Rahman said around 1,388 hectares of land has been brought under tobacco farming in Rangpur in 2017-18, while it was 1,595 hectares in 2016-17.
Around 4,500 hectares of land was brought under tobacco farming in Rangpur in 2012-13, which was the highest ever in the district in recent years. But, after that the area of tobacco cultivation started dropping.
In 2013-14 the land area dropped to 2,522 hectares, and it was 2,130 hectares in 2014-15.
Tobacco is produced in Sadar, Mithapukur, Pirgachha, Kaunia, Haragachh, Taraganj, Badarganj and Gangachara upazilas of the district.
DAE official in Badarganj upazila Kanak Roy said around 38 hectares of land was brought under tobacco farming in the upazila this season.
Sirajul Haq of Pakarmatha village in the upazila said he cultivated tobacco on 50 decimals of land this year. The area was double last year. “I cut the area to half this year after learning about negative impact of tobacco on the body, although it is a profitable crop,” said Sirajul, adding that he would not cultivate tobacco from next season.
Manik Roy of the village said he dropped tobacco farming this year, adding that he had been growing tobacco for the last ten years. He planted maize instead on 75 decimals, he added.
“Tobacco is really a profitable crop, but not good for the health of the growers,” he said.
Kanak said most farmers in his upazila cultivated maize, potato and mustard on their land instead of tobacco this season.
“Farmers are learning that tobacco is not good for the soil even,” Kanak added.
Abu Bakkar, a farmer of Shathibari village in Mithapukur upazila, said he did not cultivate tobacco on his land this year despite knowing that it is a profitable crop. He told this correspondent that farm workers often refuse to work on tobacco fields as they fall sick whenever they work there, adding that the soil on which tobacco is grown loses fertility very fast.
“So, morally we should not cultivate tobacco. We can earn high profit, but it has bad impact on health,” he said.
He cultivated maize on his one acre of land this year, Abu Bakkar said.
Dulu Mia of Borobeel village in Gangachara upazila said he cultivated tobacco on his 33 decimals this year. “I cultivated tobacco this year because I need money,” he said.
He is thinking of giving up tobacco farming from next year. “It is quite difficult to give up tobacco farming as various companies lure farmers with lucrative offers,” he said, admitting that growing of tobacco it not good for the health of the growers.
Things started changing because of counselling, said Tanmoy Sanyal, coordinator of Rajshahi region of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers' Association (Bela). Farmers will not cultivate tobacco in future if such trend continues, he said.