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Healthy Caribbean Coalition - Tobacco Revival - Study shows high earnings

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First Published Jamaica Observer 20th March 2011 -  View full article here

A just-concluded survey of the local tobacco industry says that there has been a resurgence in cultivation of the crop in the past two years and places the industry's estimated farmgate value at $397 million.

At the same time, the survey also found that most of the industry's 573 farmers plan to expand production, even as pressure mounts on the Government to enact tobacco control legislation in keeping with Jamaica's obligation under the World Health Organisation's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) signed in 2003.

The survey, which is likely to receive heavy flak from the anti-tobacco lobby, was conducted by the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) over four weeks between January and February 2011.

The study, the researchers said, took the form of a field survey utilising farmer interviews, GPS mapping data analysis and cross-referencing. A total of 80 extension personnel conducted the survey across the island and identified tobacco farmers in all parishes except Kingston & St Andrew, St James, and Hanover.

"Although tobacco farming has gone on in Jamaica for a long time, the large-scale commercial production of tobacco almost disappeared during the early-1990s. In the past two or three years, however, there has been resurgence in the cultivation of this crop," said the survey released this month.

"Led by strong demand in a mainly informal market for locally grown tobacco and, to a lesser extent, the demand for tobacco for a small cigar-making sub-sector, the cultivation of tobacco has been on an upward growth curve. This is evidenced by the number of new tobacco farmers identified by the survey. More than half of the farmers indicated that they have been growing tobacco for less than two years."

The researchers said that of the 573 tobacco farmers across the island the highest concentrations -- 153 and 137 -- were located in St Elizabeth and St Ann respectively. Portland had 103; Westmoreland, 65; Trelawny, 35; St Mary, 35; St Catherine, 17; Clarendon, 15; St Thomas, seven; and Manchester, six.

However, the researchers said they found that the largest acreage of tobacco -- 126.2 acres -- was in St Ann, which accounted for more than a third of the estimated total 310.5 acres of the crop islandwide. Portland followed with 54.1 acres, while St Elizabeth had 51.3 acres. more.......

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