ISLAMABAD - The Pakistan Tobacco Board (PTB) must adopt a proactive approach and take all necessary steps for the welfare of tobacco farmers, Commerce Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan said on Thursday.

He said that Tobacco Cess Refund Rules were framed to support tobacco exporters. He made these remarks at an MoU signing ceremony among the Pakistan Tobacco Board (PTB), Pakistan Tobacco Company (PTC) and Philip Morris Pakistan Limited (PMPKL) for Barn Modification to make tobacco curing process more efficient.

Ikram Ghani, chairman of the PTB, Asad Shah from PTC and Irshad Khan from PMPKL signed the documents at the Ministry of Commerce. The financial cost of the scheme that is Rs20 million will be borne by the PTB from its own resources. The two private sector companies will provide technical assistance free of cost. The companies will also undertake an impact analysis during and after the curing season to see the results of the modifications. Preference will be given to small farmers and all tobacco growing districts will be given share proportionate to their production.

Under the scheme, more than 400 barns of tobacco farmers will be modified through latest innovations in the existing barns. The modifications will make the tobacco curing process 20-25% more energy efficient, thereby reducing the cost of production on one hand and improving the quality of the leaf on the other. This will minimise the adverse impact on environment. Khurram directed the management of PTB to adopt a proactive approach and take all necessary steps for the welfare of tobacco farmers.

Ikram informed the minister that the PTB had entered into negotiations with the NICL for barn insurance and the scheme would be introduced soon.

The minister appreciated the initiative and said that PTB should share the cost of premium with farmers so that burden is reduced on them. The minister said that Tobacco Cess Refund Rules were framed to support tobacco exporters.