Series No. 23 To Produce or not to Produce: Tackling the Tobacco Dilemma


This study looked into the economics of tobacco cultivation in Bangladesh. At the macro level, the importance of tobacco farming has been declining. However, a survey conducted on 300 tobacco farmers in 19 villages of Rangpur and Kushtia revealed the increasing importance of tobacco at the micro level with more than a quarter of the sample farmers joining the rank of a tobacco farmer in the past five years. The driving force behind this phenomenon has been the apparent profitability of growing this crop. Tobacco cultivation requires intensive labour and most farmers economise on the labour cost by using their own household labour. When the imputed value of this is taken into account, tobacco loses much of its profitability. Therefore, when weighed on a cost-benefit scale, tobacco often yields a lower economic profitability than a number of other crops. Our study identified some of these crops as maize, potato, sugarcane, sunflower, cauliflower and tuberose. Most farmers seemed aware of the health and environmental hazards of tobacco but continued growing the crop because of overriding factors such as guaranteed market and ready cash (which is not the case with most other crops). Even though tobacco is a good source of revenue for the government, this industry may be promoted given its ‘merit bad’ character. Informing the farmers about the true economies of tobacco, providing marketing facilities, introducing sustainable procurement drives at reasonable prices and enhancing the storage capacity of alternate high value crops could act as catalysts for farmers to quit tobacco farming.

Related information

  • Writer Name: Firdousi Naher, AMR Chowdhury
  • Published Date: Thursday, 10 October 2002
  • Country: Bangladesh