The plight of tobacco farming under hegemony of transnational tobacco companies in Turkey: repercussions and remedies
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Turkish National Coalition on Tobacco or Health, Turkey
Publish date: 2018-03-01
Tob. Induc. Dis. 2018;16(Suppl 1):A942
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The shift from State oversight to contractual farming mandated by law in 2002 as a structural adjustment conditionality has had destructive impact on Turkish tobacco agriculture: Transnational tobacco companies (TTCs) gained control by being able to impose unilateral conditions; tobacco farmers were forced to face three options: prices below subsistence, migration, or turning to illicit market. A heated debate about illicit domestic tobacco market recently surfaced in news media.


(a) Literature review,
(b) trend analysis of Turkish leaf tobacco output and trade as compared among 12 major tobacco growing countries, using official data (2003-2016), FAOstat (1961-2014), UNdata (1989-2015),
(c) review of relevant news coverage (2016 - June 2017).

Over the last 25 years, Turkey was worst hit among the 12 countries: Leaf tobacco output dropped sharpest by 78%, and trade balance was drastically reversed. Between 2003-2016, cigarettes manufactured rose by 32.2%, leaf tobacco imports by 46.6%, whereas number of tobacco farmers declined by 82.4%, domestic output by 39.4%, and exports by 53.6%. Domestic tobacco used in cigarettes decreased from 42.1% to 13.3%. Tobacco agriculture vanished in certain regions or reduced to supplementary source of income undertaken by elderly and children. Domestic tobacco lobby seeks legalization, lower tax rates, and quotas for compulsory use of domestic tobacco in manufacturing. TTCs fervently oppose these positions and demand severe countermeasures.

TTCs ability to source leaf tobacco at lowest possible prices through their affiliates from around the world under liberalized trade and contractual farming regimes greatly harms agricultural activities realized by income and employment generating small family holdings, and thus national economies. In Turkey, TTC hegemony devastated farmers' livelihoods, caused market imbalance and duality, and disrupted regulations and taxation. Agriculture policy must be aligned with consumption reduction strategies through strategic planning for economically viable alternatives and effective oversight of tobacco cultivation.