Farmers in different districts of the northern region of the country are giving up tobacco cultivation and are turning to growing various winter crops, especially vegetables, and maize.
As a result, tobacco cultivation in the northern districts is declining every year.
Two years ago, tobacco was cultivated in 13,787 hectares of land in Rangpur region, which came down to 13,557 hectares last year, according to data from the Department of Agriculture Extension. And this year, tobacco has been cultivated in 3,555 hectares of land so far.
Dr M Sarwarul Haque, deputy director of the Rangpur Department of Agricultural Extension, said farmers are giving up tobacco cultivation as it is harmful to health.
Farmers said tobacco cultivation is a hectic job, while it decreases the fertility of soil and causes other health hazards including respiratory problems.
Moreover, tobacco cultivation involves higher production costs. As working on tobacco farms causes health problems, workers' wages are higher in this case.
Because of all these reasons, many farmers have shifted from tobacco cultivation to maize, potato and other vegetables.
Monaim Khan, a farmer from Poddarpara village in Taraganj upazila of Rangpur, said he has cultivated tobacco on 30 decimals of land this year. Last year, he cultivated tobacco on one acres of land.
Imran Ali Sheikh of the same village said he cultivated tobacco in one bigha of land last year but this year he has cultivated potatoes on the land. He has refrained from growing tobacco as managing tobacco cultivation is too hard and it is harmful to health.
Qutub Uddin, a farmer from Poddarpara village in Taraganj upazila, said some of his family members fell ill after planting tobacco two years ago. Since then, he has been cultivating winter vegetables, potatoes and maize, which are more profitable than tobacco.
According to the Rangpur Agriculture Office, the highest tobacco cultivation was in 2018 on 9,100 hectares of land in Lalmonirhat district. Meanwhile, tobacco was cultivated on 1,540 hectares of land in Rangpur, 40 hectares in Gaibandha, and 3,107 hectares in Nilphamari district. No farmer in Kurigram cultivated tobacco that year.
In 2019, tobacco was cultivated on 8,950 hectares of land in Lalmonirhat district, 3,023 hectares in Nilphamari district, 1,525 hectares in Rangpur, 9 hectares in Gaibandha and 50 hectares in Kurigram.
So far this year, tobacco has been cultivated on 3,555 hectares of land in Lalmonirhat and 15 hectares in Rangpur. Farmers of other districts have not yet grown tobacco.