The tobacco crops were destroyed by shady interest groups

. (Translated by Cosmin Ghidoveanu)
Ziarul BURSA #English Section / 1 martie 2012

The tobacco crops were destroyed by shady interest groups

Romania could very become an exporter of tobacco, because it meets all the necessary requirements to produce the five types of tobacco, former agriculture minister Valeriu Tabără said in an interview. According to him, the domestic industry was destroyed by various interests over the last 20 years, and processors in the industry currently prefer to import the tobacco needed to manufacture cigarettes and other products which use this plant as a raw material.

Interview with Valeriu Tabără, former minister of Agriculture and of Rural Development - MADR

Reporter: Last year, in a different interview, you told us that a Committee comprising representatives of several ministries would be created, to coordinate the activities in the tobacco sector. What happened to this structure, since then?

Valeriu Tabără: We had several meetings with the representatives of the associations of tobacco growers, at the ministry. Those meetings involved the representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, of the Ministry of Health and of the associations in the industry, and they had a particular focus on tobacco subsidies.

Reporter: How big are those subsidies?

Valeriu Tabără: The special subsidy amounts to about 1,200 Euros/hectare, plus an additional 92.6 Euros - the subsidy of the SAPS and 32.3 Euros/hectare - the state's contribution for Diesel fuel.

Reporter: I understand that the subsidy for the tobacco crops is one of the issues of growers in the business. What other obstacles are they facing?

Valeriu Tabără: The number one problem is represented by the unjustified tobacco imports. Processors prefer to import tobacco rather than buy it domestically.

Reporter: Would we be able to handle the demand if the producers only bought from the domestic market?

Valeriu Tabără: We have the ability to grow enough to cover the market needs, provided we had firm contracts with the processors and the harvest was sold.

Reporter: Last year you were saying that Romania could become an exporter of tobacco...

Valeriu Tabără: Yes, of course. The tobacco industrialists in Romania could be buying tobacco from the domestic market in just a few years. In two to three years, Romania could become a tobacco exporter. Romania has the possibility of producing all of the five types of tobacco at top quality.

Valeriu Tabără: Because of this, we are interested in having the Romanian farmers manufacture tobacco. In two to three years, we could stop being tobacco importers.

Reporter: What other measures should be taken in this respect, in your opinion?

Valeriu Tabără: I think that all the details concerning the EU community legislation and the facilities which can be created for the tobacco market should be approached.

Reporter: How big are the areas which are used for growing tobacco in Romania?

Valeriu Tabără: They are very small. After 1990, we had 36,000-37,000 hectares grown with tobacco, and now we have just over 1,000 hectares.

Reporter: What do we do with this tobacco, just as it is?

Valeriu Tabără: Most of it is exported. We have a contract with a Hungarian company.

Reporter: What are the Romanian areas where tobacco is being grown?

Valeriu Tabără: We grow tobacco in the North West and in the South - in Giurgiu and Dolj. Also, we have areas which are good for growing tobacco in the Moldovan Plateau, in the Drăgăşani area, Burlei - Transylvania, as well as the plains areas. The oriental and semi-oriental tobacco can be very easily grown in Dobrogea, on the Moldovan and Gettic plateau, and in the county of Giurgiu.

Reporter: What are the five types of tobacco which you said could very well grow in Romania?

Valeriu Tabără: We are talking about oriental, semi-oriental, Virginia, burlei and wide consumption, for common and flavored cigarettes.

Reporter: I suppose that we used to export a large quantity of tobacco prior to 1990...

Valeriu Tabără: Romania was a major exporter of tobacco and of finished and intermediate products. Obviously, at the time, the bulk of our exports went to Russia, in the USSR.

Reporter: How could we promote this industry?

Valeriu Tabără: There aren't that many means to promote this industry, because we need to overlap with the European legislation. We should find a way to block imports, but it is very difficult to fight the major companies in the business. They are the ones who contributed to the fall of the domestic tobacco industry. If it weren't for unfair competition, we would currently be able to grow 10,000-15,000 hectares of tobacco. The tobacco industry should operate without blocks. Tobacco crops have been destroyed by shady interest groups. There was a convergence of factions who wanted this industry to collapse, they wanted the Romanian Tobacco Public Corporation, a profitable company, which until 2007, used to provide over 70% of the consumption, to disappear. Right now, I do not even think that there are any Romanian cigarette brands left. We used to have brands like "Carpaţi", "Snagov", "Mărăşeşti", "Aviator" etc.

Reporter: But can we still hope that this sector would recover?

Valeriu Tabără: After its reorganization, the sector will be able to expand. Besides, this business has seen improved results lately, due to the special subsidies. It's just that, being a difficult crop, about which there are specific visions, and having many other priorities, sometimes even the minister can lose sight of the development of this sector.

Reporter: Thank you!

Last year, a draft was created for the organization of an Interministry Committee in order to coordinate the activities in the tobacco, tobacco processed products and ancillary activities. The note for the substantiation of the project also comprised the creation of an integrated system of actions across the EC for a functional market for tobacco and for fighting illegal trade, as the impact of the creation of the Inter-Ministry Committee of the tobacco industry on the business environment.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MADR): We grow tobacco on less than 1900 hectares

The areas in Romania which grow tobacco are small, with a total surface of less than 1,900 hectares, the representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MADR) told us. They mentioned that over the last years, the total area of these crops has increased, from 1,100 hectares in 2007, to 1,900 hectares in 2011.

Last year, tobacco was grown in 19 counties, of which Ialomiţa, Teleorman and Mureş have the largest surfaces which grow tobacco, according to the quoted sources.

The representatives of the MADR said: "Tobacco growers are farmers which conclude contracts with the processors authorized by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MADR) and are registered with the Agriculture Departments in each county".

Last year, the records of the APIA comprised 818 tobacco growers.

The average tobacco output ranged between 1,025 kg/hectare, in 2007 and 1,280 kg/hectare, in 2011.

The tobacco harvested by the farmers is delivered to the authorized processing units, based on contracts and delivery statements.

Between January and November 2011, Romania imported almost 29,000 tons of tobacco (raw tobacco, unprocessed and tobacco waste), worth almost 124.5 million Euros. Over the same period, we have exported 1,355.5 tons of tobacco (of the same types), amounting to 978,000 Euros, like the representatives of the MADR said, who quoted the National Customs Authority.

Since 2010, the government subsidizes tobacco crops through the sole payment per surface, the national direct complimentary payment, the reduction of the Diesel fuel excise, the subsidizing of the insurance premiums and the subsidizing of the production loan, according to information from the MADR.

At the moment, the subsidy for one hectare of tobacco is 1,200 Euros, plus 92.6 Euros per hectare of the SAPS (the sole payment per surface scheme) and 32.3 Euros/hectare - the government's contribution for Diesel fuel.

Do not insure your cigarettes against fire!...

An American lawyer bought a box of extremely expensive cigarettes which he insured, among other things, against fire.

After smoking them, he filed a claim with the insurance company and sued it when it refused to pay.

While the judge acknowledged the frivolousness of the request, the judge ruled that the insurance policy did not define the notion of "acceptable fire", hence it forced the insurance company to compensate the lawyer, and pay him 15,000 dollars.

After having paid him the check, the insurance company asked for the lawyer to be arrested on 24 counts of arson, using his own testimony in the previous lawsuit as evidence.

The lawyer was sentenced for the arson of his insured property and was sentenced to 24 months in prison and to pay a fine of 24,000 dollars.

That makes a thousand dollars and a month of prison for each cigarette.

We suspect the lawyer in question quit smoking.

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