Tobacco farmers up in arms

The Greek Tobacco Manufacturers Association will participate with counterpart European Union organizations in a protest rally against the Commission’s «unacceptable» proposals for the reform of the common market for tobacco, during the scheduled farm ministers’ meeting in Brussels on November 17. «Greece is the EU’s most important tobacco-producing member, with 55,000 farmers growing the most famous quality tobaccos in the world. Revenues for the national economy from exports alone amount to 300 million euros. The Greek tobacco-manufacturing industry, with 20 regional processing plants and invested capital of more than 150 million euros, today gives employment to 10,000 tobacco growers and workers, whose jobs and economic survival are now in danger,» the association said in a statement. Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler said at a public discussion in Brussels on Monday that the Commission’s reform proposals for tobacco growers aim to maintain income supports at their current levels but also to encourage them to switch to other crops. «For the majority of farm households, the current support will simply be transferred to the unified support system and be maintained at 100 percent of the existing level. This means that the family farm, which represents about 80 percent of the total labor force in the tobacco sector, will continue receiving support but in a way more compatible with the general orientation of Community policy. The support given to farmers will continue; the support given to products is abolished,» he said. Greece and Italy together produce 75 percent of Europe’s total tobacco production, representing about 350,000 tons per year.