"I have been cultivating tobacco for six years, and last year I earned around Bt60,000, so I decided to grow more tobacco this year," Dawan Tamta a tobacco grower in Nakhon Phanom province said proudly.
She added that tobacco farming was more profitable than growing rice. More importantly labour protection was highly emphasised in the community, especially child labour prevention. Children under 13 cannot take part in any kind of work, even if they are a family member.
Dawan grows tobacco under a collaborative effort to put agricultural labour practices (ALP) into practice. Philip Morris has partnered with Adams International, tobacco leaf buyer and exporter, who has been running the business in Thailand for 46 years.
Surot Lao-acca, assistant field department manager of Adams International, said about 2,700 Oriental tobacco growers in Nakhon Phanom and some 20,000 farming families in the Northeast region are under the company’s care.
The labour prevention measures include the distribution of equipment protecting farmers from chemicals and substances used in tobacco farming. They also conduct sessions to educate farmers on hazardous on-field tasks, to prevent underage labourers, and to promote the right way of disposing of chemical containers—the first initiative of its kind in the agricultural industry.
Pongsathorn Ansusinha, director of corporate affairs of Philip Morris (Thailand) Ltd (PMTL), cigarette importer and exporter of Thai tobacco, added that 14 Oriental tobacco growing provinces in the Northeast, most notably Nakhon Phanom, |create jobs and generate income for the farmers after the rice cropping season.
He added that the value of tobacco purchased from Thai farmers from 2010 to 2014 was over Bt4.33 billion, while up to Bt773 million worth was purchased in 2015.
Integrating the livelihood of tobacco growers to its long-term sustainability plan is a continuous effort. Philip Morris International, PMTL’s parent company, initiated the ALP in 2009 with the objective of improving the working conditions as well as the well-being of tobacco farmers, their families and related workers in more than 30 countries worldwide.
For Thailand, the ALP program,e was rolled out in 2012.
The ALP code covers several key areas related to labour, especially prevention of child labour and forced labour as well as promoting a safe work environment to ensure that the produces come from a safe and fair working environment, Pongsathorn sai.
Tobacco is an economic crop that remains a viable choice in terms of creating financial stability for Thai tobacco growers, which amount to more than 45,000 households nationwide. The Northeast is a major area where Oriental tobacco is grown and needed in global markets.
According to the Excise Department of the Finance Ministry, the leaf production generated from the Northeast accounts for 10.8 million kilograms, whereas the total production of tobacco farmers nationwide over 2014-2015 resulted in more than 50 million kilograms.