Tobacco farmers of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have said that in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the government must intervene and fix advanced tax on tobacco products instead of imposing levies on farmers.
Led by Sarhad Agricultural and Rural Development Organisation and other organizations, farmers told Pakistan Today that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government had taken several measures for other sectors to rescue them in the pandemic times and demanded they also be given relief.
The farmers have the support of Kisan Board Pakistan, Pakistan Tobacco Workers Association, Sarhad Agricultural, and Rural Development Organisation, Labours Federation, and Anjuman Tahaffuz Haqooq-i-Kashtkaran.
One farmer, Gul Khan said their province had no other cash crop like cotton and sugarcane, so they were left to grow tobacco as the only cash crop in the province. He said over the years without any government support, they had been adding billions to the national exchequer as central excise duty besides providing livelihood to thousands of families.
“(Advance) tax on farmers means relief for the tobacco industry while growers will be hit hard. The measure will also help multinational tobacco companies to create a monopoly in Pakistan,” he said.
He said tobacco companies would buy the finest quality tobacco from farmers at lower rates.
Mehnatkash Labour Federation President Ibrarullah said that when coronavirus lockdown and halt in trade had snatched millions of jobs, the local tobacco sector was still intact and had the capacity to provide jobs to thousands of workers.
“On the other hand, multinational companies are known for exploiting farmers and workers and layoff,” he maintained. He said one such company in Akora Khattak denied Mahnatkash Labour Union from working on the premises even though the union was duly registered with the Pakistan Labour Department.
There are reports that Rs500/kg advance tax is being imposed on tobacco in the 2020-21 budget, Anjuman Tahffuz Haqooq-i-Kashtkaran president Haji Niamatullah said.
He demanded that the government reinstate the prevailing tax ratio without imposing an advanced tax on tobacco crops.
President of the Sarhad Agricultural and Rural Development Haji Abdul Nabi said that advanced tax on tobacco will burden the poor growers and farmers.
President of Pakistan Tobacco Workers Association Liaqat Yousafzai the government should earn exchequer by imposing advanced tax on tobacco products (cigarettes pack) and local tobacco growers should also be included in the Pakistan Tobacco Board.