Tobacco finished?

The projected end to the cultivation of tobacco in a number of Greek regions is bound to have huge economic and social consequences, according to a recent academic study. The issue is pressing for Greece, which accounts for 39 percent of total European Union tobacco production, as changes are being set in motion regarding a single market in the sector, where the decoupling of production from subsidies is envisaged, as for other crops. The study, titled «Perspectives of Tobacco Production in the EU: High Quality, Respect for the Environment,» presented at the recent 29th meeting of the International Association of Tobacco Growers, warns of the dire consequences for tobacco-producing areas in Greece, where it is a single crop. The study was conducted by staff of the universities of Thessaloniki, Athens, Crete and Patras and France’s Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA), and focused on the areas of eastern Macedonia-Thrace and central Macedonia, which account for more than 60 percent of the country’s tobacco fields and producers. The study concludes that if subsidies are suspended, tobacco production and manufacturing will suffer heavily, with about 80 percent of growers going out of business. A total of 148,073 jobs are estimated to be lost, and the value of the gross product in the two areas referred to above is estimated at 958 million euros. The tobacco manufacturing sector is also projected to shed 17,381 jobs. Achilleas Karagiozopoulos, the general secretary of the Panhellenic Confederation of the Unions of Agricultural Cooperatives (PASEGES), notes in his paper «The Importance of Tobacco Production in Greece» that while Greek tobacco production claims the same percentage of the EU total as Italy – that is, 39 percent for each country – in Greece it equals 6.8 percent of total farm production and represents 16 percent of total farm exports, covers 2.5 percent of total cultivated land and employs 9.4 percent of the active farm population. The European Union budget for tobacco subsidies amounts to 900 million euros and the tax income to member countries from the sector equals 70 billion euros annually. According to the head of the International Union of Tobacco Growers (UNITAB), Remy Losser, the European Commission proposals for cuts in subsidies «have shaken the ground under our feet; this is the first planned death sentence on production.»