News Column

Iseyin Tobacco Farmers Hooked On Loans

May 26, 2014

Tobacco farmers in Iseyin, Oyo State, have said they want to go into the farming of more healthy crops, but are hindered by loans. The farmers, who made this disclosure when Environmental Rights Action/Friends of Earth, Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), led a team of journalists and members of other groups to Iseyin, said most of them have remained in tobacco farming because they are yet to repay loans they obtained from British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN).

The outputs from their farms, they confessed, are too little to pay within a short time, a reason they are hooked on tobacco farming. Some of them have, however, moved on.

Isaiah Ogundeji, one of those that have moved from tobacco farming in Iseyin, told the team that, "Tobacco is no longer farmed in this part of Iseyin because it is no longer profitable. I now cultivate cassava and other root crops.

"What we were told by BATN is that the Nigerian government is no longer interested in tobacco."

Another farmer and graduate from Otu Community in the area, who would prefer to be anonymous, said he started tobacco because he had no job. Having taken over from a father who was an instructor with BATN, he said, "I own four acres of land that I grow tobacco on and I hire several workers that I pay daily to assist in cultivation. BATN gives us loans to cultivate tobacco and is the determinant of prices of our harvest. The loans most times depend on the size of your farm."

Another farmer, who would like to be called Bisoye Ayinla for the purpose of the publication, said, "I would have delved very much into cassava cultivation, but tobacco growing is so intensive that you can hardly do anything else.

"The irony, however, is that BATN is the sole buyer and determinant of the prices for tobacco leaves we supply after curing them during the harvesting period. The company also gives loans to us, which we must repay through the tobacco leaves.

"Once you cannot meet-up, you carry over the repayment till the next planting year and this cycle is one you can continue for all your life."

Speaking on the findings from the farms in Iseyin during a debriefing session held in Lagos, ERA/FoEN's Director of Corporate Accountability, Akinbode Oluwafemi, said, "From the interrogation of the farmers in the three communities the ERA/FoEN team went away with the impression that most of them are only involved in tobacco farming for want of gainful employment; not because they love the tobacco trade.

"One basic fact seemed to stare the team in the face; the sparse farmlands across the entire localities visited and the fact that not many farmers own big lands seem to justify our long-held belief that BATN may actually be importing more of its leaf from outside Nigeria but only hyping the number of its farms and farmers to create impression that anything untoward in Nigeria's legislation may affect thousands of farmers and the Nigerian economy at large."

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Source: AllAfrica

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