MARDAN - Tobacco is being cultivated on about 0.25 per cent land in Pakistan and provides employment opportunities to 75,000 farmers' families in rural areas and over one million direct and indirect employments to other population.
"Tobacco contributes to federal exchequer in shape of sales tax and FED over Rs114 billion per year", Haji Niamat Shah Roghani said while talking to The Nation.
Niamat Shah, who is vice president of Anjumn-e-Kashtkaran Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (AKKP) also said that due to terrorist attacks and slow economic activities, all other business and employment sources have been destroyed.
He added that the only mean of earning is tobacco farming but unfortunately increase in taxes made impossible for poor farmers to continue its cultivation.
He added that government has imposed federal excise duty Rs 10, advance withholding tax Rs 8.8, federal government Cess Rs 3.67 and provincial excise Cess Rs 5 on per kg of tobacco.
He added that all these taxes were deducted from the farmers in tobacco prices by tobacco companies.
"In 2017 there was no competition in tobacco market and tobacco prices were below our own cost", he added.
He said that after agitation by the farmers in market Pakistan Tobacco Board (PTB) and other regulatory bodies forced the companies for buying but due to high taxes and price remained lower than farmers actual cost they faced huge losses.
The AKKP president further added that another reason for losses to farmers was reduction in cigarettes and 50 percent reduction in excise duty by creation of third slab. "Companies were allowed by government to reduce the cigarettes prices and due to this reason they did not pay fair prices to tobacco farmers which resulted in billions of losses to farmers, besides reduction in price of 3rd slab's cigarettes", he added.
Shah added that government of Pakistan has violated an agreement, framework convention on tobacco control (FCTC) signed in 2004 with world health organization (WHO). He said that this agreement was for discouraging smoking by taking price and non price measures but in 2017 budget these clauses were violated by decreasing in cigarettes price from Rs 72 to Rs 50 per packet.
Namat Shah demanded the government to declare tobacco a normal crop like other crops in terms of taxation.
He also demanded that 5 percent advance withholding tax, FED on tobacco leaf Rs 10 per kg and federal government cess Rs 3.67 per kg on tobacco leaf must be include in federal excise duty on cigarette production instead of imposition on tobacco crop.
He also demanded the government that third slab of cigarettes introduced in budget 2017 and 50 percent reduction in federal excise duty must be eliminated.
The added that tobacco farmers of Swabi, Mardan, Charsadda, Nowshera, Buner, Swat and Mansehra district has collectively requested the government to fulfill our demands and provide relief to the poor farmers of tobacco.
He warned that if government failed to fulfill their demands they will be compelled to start an agitation drive.