Background Tobacco production continues to increase in low-income and middle-income countries including in Bangladesh. It has spreads to different parts of Bangladesh and is now threatening food cultivation, the environment and health. The aim of this study is to determine the factors those are influenced farmers’ decisions to grow tobacco.
Methods We surveyed 371 tobacco farmers using a simple random sampling in the Meherpur district of Bangladesh. Binary logistic regression was used to examine the variables affecting farmers’ decision to cultivate tobacco.
Results Approximately 87.0% of the respondents were contract farmers with different tobacco companies. Almost 83.3% of the farmers had intentions to continue tobacco farming. Binary logistic regression results suggest that company’s incentives to farmers, farmers’ profitability, a guaranteed market for the tobacco crop and economic viability were the variables most affecting the decision to cultivate tobacco.
Conclusions Governments seeking to shift farmers away from tobacco will need to consider how to address the dynamics revealed in this research.
- tobacco cultivation
- logistic regression
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Bangladesh’s economy is predominantly agricultural and the majority of people depend on farming as a livelihood.1 Tobacco was a basic cash crop in Bangladesh since 1960.2 However, after the liberation war in 1971, it has been spread to different parts of the country, which is now threatening food cultivation, the environment and public health.2 3 Many farmers report contracting with companies that provide inputs and/or loans before the planting season without pre-payment, but obligate the farmer to sell to the company, and the costs of the inputs are paid back to the company from the sale of the leaf, which is exclusive.
Many studies across different countries including Bangladesh have reported about the adverse impacts of tobacco farming on farmers’ livelihoods, the environment and health.4–10 To reduce the harmful impacts of tobacco growing by shifting farmers to other livelihoods, it is important to add to the small literature that is identifying the factors that influence farmer’s decisions to grow tobacco.11 12 Therefore, the central aim of this study is to identify those important factors those are influencing farmers to cultivate tobacco in one major tobacco growing area of Bangladesh.
This research was conducted in Meherpur district in Bangladesh, where tobacco is a major cash crop.5 First, a list of tobacco farmers (n=9898) was collected from the district agriculture office. Then, survey data were collected in June–July 2016 through a structured questionnaire from 371 tobacco farmers using a simple random sampling technique. To assess the farmers’ background characteristics, questions included: type of farmer (full-time vs part-time), age, level of education, family size, cultivated land for tobacco, household sanitation condition, and monthly income from both agricultural and non-agricultural sources. Questions about the economic dynamic of tobacco farming were also asked, including: whether the farmer was on contract with a leaf buying firm, the supply chain for selling their tobacco, and their perception of the crop’s profitability and economic viability. There were also questions on the farmers’ beliefs about the effect on health, the soil and the environment generally.
Descriptive statistics were calculated, measuring the frequencies and percentages of the variables. Binary logistic regression was used to predict the variables that influence the decision to grow tobacco, using the response to the question ‘will you cultivate tobacco next year’ as the main dependent variable. Data processing and analysis used SPSS V.20.
In this study, 83.3% of the tobacco farmers indicated an intention to continue tobacco cultivation. Approximately 87.1% of tobacco farmers were contracted to a tobacco leaf buying company. Just over two-thirds of the participants were between 36 and 50 years, and nearly half had completed their primary education. The complete background characteristics of the tobacco growers can be found in the online supplementary table.
Findings of the logistic regression are presented in table 1. The results indicate that six variables were statistically significantly associated with tobacco cultivation. First, support from contractors, including the opportunity to obtain seeds, insecticide, fertiliser, technical support and/or loans was positively related to the decision to cultivate tobacco, with the OR suggesting that when companies provide inputs and/or loans to farmers, they are 6.2 times more likely to cultivate tobacco. The results also demonstrate that guaranteed market facilities—that is, a guaranteed or assured buyer—had a positive and statistically significant effect on cultivating tobacco. The ORs suggest that when tobacco farmers could sell their product to mediators, they were 2.5 times more likely to cultivate tobacco, or to a company agent they were 15.9 times more likely to cultivate tobacco. The OR for the perceived profitability variable suggests that farmers were 2.1 times more likely to grow tobacco when they perceived the crop to be profitable.
The results indicate most of the farmers were intended to continue tobacco cultivation because of its short-term financial payoffs, particularly the provision of ‘up-front’ inputs by the contracting companies. Similar results were found in Malawi and Kenya.13 14 Better access to credit—also through the contracting process—also encouraged tobacco cultivation, similar to previous studies in Bangladesh.2 3 5 15 As a result, to shift farmers to food crop cultivation or similar programmes that provide up-front agricultural inputs and/or easier access to credit are promising starting points.
Guaranteed market facility was another strong determinant of promoting tobacco cultivation, a finding also supported by previous studies in Bangladesh.5 15 Tobacco companies guarantee the purchase of the farmers’ products and they get prompt payment of sale.2 5 15In addition, farmers believe that tobacco is a profitable crop, stimulating farmers to cultivate tobacco, a finding supported by previous studies in Bangladesh.2 Accordingly, government interventions to better assure markets for alternative crops is another viable economic development strategy.
The study results have shown that there are several key variables that affect farmers’ decisions to grow tobacco, including: company’s incentives to farmers; profitability, a guaranteed market and perceived economic viability. It will be important for government to promote programme that provides easier access to seeds, fertiliser, loans, and other inputs and ready access to markets to sell their harvest in order to promote transition to other crops which are not harmful for the environment or health.
What this paper adds
Tobacco cultivation has become an important part of agriculture in certain parts of Bangladesh.
Current evidence about tobacco cultivation is limited in Bangladesh.
The farmers of Bangladesh are largely influenced to cultivate tobacco instead of food crops because of various incentives from tobacco companies such as free seeds, loans for pesticides and fertilisers, technical support and guaranteed market facility.
Farmers also indicate that they cultivate tobacco for its perceived economic viability.
The authors wish to acknowledge to the participants of this study. They are thankful to Dr Raphael Lencucha and Dr Jeffrey Drope for their assistance in reviewing the manuscript. Authors also thankful to District Agricultural Officer of Meherpur, Mr Mostafizur Rahman, for providing list of tobacco growers.
Contributors MSR, NAMFA and MA designed the research study. MSR and MA performed statistical analysis, and draft the original manuscript. All authors contributed to synthesise the analysis plan and interpret the findings. NAMFA, MMA and MSI helped to conceptualise the analysis and draft plan and review of the manuscript critically. All authors helped to write the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent for publication Not required.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.