Attempts of Ceylon Tobacco to Sustain Tobacco Cultivation in Sri Lanka

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Background

Tobacco cultivation leads to many adverse effects on the farmers and the environment.Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC (CTC) is the only subsidiary of the British American Tobacco (BAT) in the region that engages in a complete leaf-to-cigarette manufacturing process. CTC launched its tobacco cultivation programme in Sri Lanka in 1952.[1] Until 2016, all the tobacco leaves required for cigarette production of CTC were cultivated in Sri Lanka.[2][3][4] In Sri Lanka, tobacco is mainly cultivated in Galewela, Polonnaruwa, Mahiyangana, Ududumbara, Haliela and Buttala.[5] Even though tobacco farmers in Sri Lanka are not direct employees of CTC, CTC is directly involved in the cultivation process by providing them seeds, agrochemicals and buying their harvest.[6]

Government Plan to ban Tobacco Cultivation by 2020

Tobacco cultivation showed a downward trend in the recent years, urging CTC to close down its leaf depots.[7][8]

The Government of Sri Lanka publicly announced plans to ban tobacco cultivation by 2020.[9][10]

Industry Responses

CTC implemented different initiatives to promote tobacco cultivation and influence farmers and policy makers throughout the history of tobacco cultivation in Sri Lanka.[11] Some of the initiatives are described below:

Exaggerating the Economic Impact of Tobacco Cultivation

Tobacco industry is known for exaggerating its positive economic impact. Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC (CTC) states in their annual reports that around 20,000 farmers are involved in tobacco farming.[12][13][14]

The data on tobacco farming provided by the Department of Agriculture on the request of the Centre for Combating Tobacco (CCT) states the number of farmers who grow tobacco in the year 2016 Yala season was 3,000 and in the years 2015/16 Maha season, it was 400.[15]

An article in the national newspaper Sunday Times titled Tobacco farmers at butt end of wavering Govt. policy in September 2019 quoted the President of the All Ceylon Cigarette Tobacco Barn Owners' Association, Jayantha Egodawela claiming the number of registered tobacco farmers to be 300,000.[16] A letter written by Egodawela on 29th November 2015 to the president Maithripala Sirisena mentioned the same figure (300,000) as the number of farmers who grow tobacco in Sri Lanka.[17] Thus, Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC (CTC) and their proxies appear to mislead the government and the public with grossly exaggerated/ incorrect statistics of tobacco farmers.

For more details visit the TobaccoUnmasked post Jayantha Egodawela and the All Ceylon Cigarette Tobacco Barn Owners' Association

Attempting to Influence Political Leaders and Officials to Interfere in the Policy Process

Ministry of Agriculture: Ministers and Officials

Tobacco industry had tried different tactics to engage the Ministers of Agriculture in Sri Lanka to sustain tobacco cultivation and promote their image. Please visit our page Ministry of Agriculture: Ministers and Officials for more details.

Other Political Leaders

All Ceylon Cigarette Tobacco Barn Owners' Association (Barn Owners’ Association), an association of barn owners registered with the CTC met the President, Prime Minister and Ministers of Finance in several occasions and attempted to interfere in the policy process of tobacco cultivation elimination.

In a recent media interview given to a national newspaper Sunday Times, Jayantha Egodawela, the President of the Barn Owners’ Association, stated that ”This is election time and candidates who come with a manifesto to protect us [tobacco farmers] will get our votes”, while claiming a grossly exaggerated number (300,000) as the number of farmers who grow tobacco.[16]

Please see our pages All Ceylon Cigarette Tobacco Barn Owners' Association and Jayantha Egodawela for more details.

Attempting to Influence the Public Opinion

Sustainable Agriculture Development Programme (SADP)

Sustainable Agriculture Development Programme (SADP) is the main corporate social investment activity of CTC. Initiated in 2005, its main target was the tobacco cultivating farmers and their families. As of 2017, it branched out to different varieties (SADP Plus, SADP Mega, SADP Ultra, SADP Lite) to include non-tobacco growing farmers. The objectives of the programme cover the themes of nutrition, home gardening and infrastructure development. The initiative received wide positive media coverage and political support.

Please click on the aforementioned links to reach the respective pages for more details.

Public Claims on Better Agricultural Techniques

  • Maize as a Sub-cultivation - Scientists and the governments around the world see Maize as a good alternative to tobacco cultivation as it is a food crop, has better return for investment and more environment friendly.[18][19] In the midst of government’s declaration of its plan to eliminate tobacco cultivation by the year 2020, CTC publicly announced they plan to cultivate maize in 150ha upon government request. Please refer to Government Requesting Tobacco Farmers to Grow Maize for further details.
Image 1: Daily News, the state national newspaper reporting positively the CTC’s contribution to tobacco farming.[21]

Organising A Bodhi Pooja against the Tobacco Cultivation Ban

A Bodhi Pooja is a Buddhist ritual that is considered in high regard by the Buddhist majority citizens in Sri Lanka. Please see our page A Bodhi Pooja against the Tobacco Cultivation Ban for details on how CTC used a Bodhy Pooja in order to attempt intervention in the policy process of banning tobacco cultivation in Sri Lanka.

Influencing Media to Promote Tobacco Cultivation

CTC offered tours to journalists in their tobacco cultivation and SADP programme areas, receiving positive media coverage in return. Few examples are mentioned below:

Media tour in Kilinochchi (2013)

Daily Mirror, a national newspaper in Sri Lanka, reporting the tour directly quoted the CTC CEO on the benefits of the SADP programme with photographs of the beneficiaries. The article was titled “Ceylon Tobacco’s SADP goes beyond one-off direct aid”[22]. The same tour was positively reported in the Daily FT under the headline ‘’From separatism to SADP!’’[23]

Media tour in Galewela (2016)

Media reported positively on tobacco farming subsequent to a tour in Galewela organised by the CTC. Daily News, the state newspaper reported it under the headline “CTC generates sustainable farmer livelihoods from tobacco” (Image 1) and Daily FT’s headline was “The Tobacco Farmers of Galewela”.[21][11] Daily FT, reportedly quoting a farmer named Banda stated that only challenge the tobacco farmers encountered so far is the authorities’ attempts to discourage tobacco cultivation.[11]

Tobacco Unmasked Resources

Other relevant TobaccoUnmasked entries:

Notes

  1. Ceylon Tobacco Company. Annual Report 2010, 2011, accessed September 2017
  2. Sri Lanka Excise Department, Sri Lanka Excise Department Performance Report 2014, Colombo: Sri Lanka Excise Department, 2015, accessed August 2017
  3. Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC. Annual Report 2016, 2017, accessed August 2017
  4. Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC. Annual Report 2015, 2016, accessed May 2017
  5. geoview.info. Tobacco Cultivation, undated, accessed September 2017
  6. Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka). Tobacco farming: A controversial livelihood, 23 September 2016, accessed August 2017
  7. M Andree. CTC to shut down two leaf depots, Ceylon Today, 31 January 2017, accessed September 2017
  8. Lanka Business Online. Sri Lanka’s Ceylon Tobacco to close two leaf depots, 31 January 2017, accessed September 2017
  9. World Health Organization. Sri Lanka: NCD Joint programming mission, 5-9 October 2015, April 2017, accessed September 2017
  10. S Marasinghe & D Mudalige. Tobacco cultivation to be banned by 2020, 7 June 2017, accessed September 2017
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 H Dabarera. The tobacco farmers of Galewela, 11 October 2016, accessed September 2017
  12. Ceylon Tobacco Company. Ceylon Tobacco Company Annual Report 2014, 2015, accessed March 2017
  13. Ceylon Tobacco Company, Ceylon Tobacco Company Annual Report 2015, 2016, accessed March 2017
  14. Ceylon Tobacco Company. Ceylon Tobacco Company Annual Report 2016, 2017, accessed March 2017
  15. Department of AgricultureData on Tobacco Cultivation Accessed September 2019
  16. 16.0 16.1 C Christopher. Tobacco farmers at butt end of wavering Govt. policy. SundayTimes.lk, 01 September 2019, Accessed September 2019
  17. Jayantha Egodawela. Letter from barn owners association All Ceylon Cigarette Tobacco Barn owners Association to the president, TobaccoUnmasked Archive, 29 November 2015, Accessed January 2019
  18. M Peiris. Farmers to opt to cultivate other crops instead of tobacco, 05 July 2016, accessed May 2017
  19. The Daily Star. Maize replacing tobacco, 06 January 2017, accessed May 2017
  20. N Gunawardena. When Worlds Collide #79: SALT can Save Lanka’s Upcountry Land and Soil. When Worlds Collide, 18th August 2013, accessed August 2017
  21. 21.0 21.1 Business. CTC generates sustainable farmer livelihoods from tobacco, 07 October 2016, accessed September 2017
  22. C Fernandopulle. Ceylon Tobacco’s SADP goes beyond one-off direct aid. Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka), 18 July 2013, accessed September 2017
  23. N Cassim. From separatism to SADP!. Daily FT, 29 July 2013, accessed September 2017