Benefiting from Govt subsidy, tobacco cultivation back again to Daraa
Daraa – Halim Muhammad
Many farmers in the southern governorate of Daraa are turning to the cultivation of the tobacco crop more than any other crop, motivated by several reasons, the most important of which is the government subsidy.
Although tobacco cultivation requires more effort, as it requires many stages of work, the provision of fuels by the regime’s government at subsidized prices, in addition to fertilizers, medicines, and seedlings, made its cultivation desirable among farmers.
Suhail, 43, a farmer from the countryside of Daraa, told Enab Baladi that the cultivation of tobacco has guaranteed results and does not expose its owner to unexpected losses, as it is not subject to market fluctuations like other vegetable and fruit crops in addition to the tobacco farmers’ access to subsidized fuel.
Suhail, who owns ten dunams planted with tobacco, said the tobacco farmer knows in advance the selling prices of his production, so he seeks to obtain the highest quality production possible, adding that the production of one dunam is estimated at 400 kilograms. (a dunam is about 900 m2)
The General Tobacco Corporation set the price of a ton of premium quality at four million and 800,000 SYP (about 200 US dollars).
The Tobacco Corporation also allocated 50 liters of subsidized diesel to irrigate the tobacco crop per month, provided that it is delivered to the farmer in installments during the period between planting and harvesting.
A number of farmers in Daraa, whom Enab Baladi interviewed, considered that the government encourages tobacco cultivation, so it subsidizes fuel and fertilizers, which is not provided for other agricultural crops.
The Tobacco Corporation aided farmers with fertilizers, which are witnessing an increase in prices in the local market, in the absence of an active role by agricultural associations, which provide limited support to the farmers.
The price of a 50-kg bag of nitrogen fertilizer reached 200,000 SYP (about 50 US dollars), a bag of “26” fertilizer reached about 130,000 SYP (33 US dollars), and a bag of super phosphate reached 130,000 SYP (33 US dollars).
In October 2021, the Agricultural Bank stopped selling fertilizers to farmers at the subsidized price and decided to sell them at the total cost price.
At the time, the Director-General of the Agricultural Bank, Ibrahim Zaidan, justified the decision to lift the subsidy on fertilizer prices by saying that pricing will be based on the real cost received by the bank, with the addition of the costs of shipping, loading, and workers.
The Tobacco Corporation provides tobacco farmers with medicines and seedlings during the cultivation of the crop and collects their price after the production is delivered.
Back after years of hiatus
Tobacco cultivation declined in Daraa during the opposition factions’ control of the area for religious reasons related to the prohibition of its cultivation and the inability of the Tobacco Corporation to continue the cultivation work.
Daraa farmers returned to planting it in the summer of 2019 after the regime forces took control of the southern region in July 2018. The area of agricultural lands increased every year until the current season when it reached 2,200 dunams, compared to 1,100 dunams for 2021.
It is expected that 500 tons of tobacco will be produced, according to the head of the Agricultural Affairs Office in the Daraa Farmers Union, Ayman al-Hariri, on 13 June.
Tobacco cultivation, how is it done
Tobacco cultivation requires several stages to reach the production stage on the one hand and specific experience in cultivating this crop on the other hand, in addition to the supervision of specialized technicians, as tobacco cultivation is not considered as easy as other agricultural crops.
According to the farmer Suhail, tobacco cultivation begins with the preparation of seedlings in the designated nurseries in March of each year, then planting begins in the ground at the beginning of May.
Tobacco farmers in Daraa follow modern irrigation methods for irrigation through drip networks, which save water consumption and ensure a higher quality of production.
After that, the stage of picking the leaves begins in July, and they are collected in the form of necklaces with a length of about one meter. Then, the laborers hang the necklaces on the wooden drying rack, wrap them in burlap bags, then press them through a wooden compressor to be handed over to the General Tobacco Corporation as the final stage.
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