Tobacco’s tough times

Indonesia currently supplies more than 25 percent of the global demand of tobacco wrappers, the largest after Brazil. The quality of the country’s commodity used for cigars is considered one of the best in the world. This cigar is tightly wrapped with the tobacco leaves of Deli, North Sumatra.

The recent controversial religious edict issued by the Tarjih council of Muhammadiyah, the country’s second largest Islamic organization, supported by an organization owned by New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, banning smoking, has worried the tobacco industry.

Among areas in the country that have a deep rooted tradition of tobacco plantation is Klaten, Central Java. The history of the tradition began during the Dutch colonial era in the 18th century. The development of Vorstenlanden (kingdom land) has been continuing for generations in the area.

Nowadays, state-owned plantation company PT Perkebunan Nusantara X, which operates several warehouses and tobacco-processing factories in Central Java and East Java, also manages cultivation in the area.

The company usually negotiates with farmers who have the land on tobacco price and rental fee for their land before starting the cultivation of the commodity. The negotiation process never happened during the regime of president Soeharto a decade ago. At that time, the administration forced the farmers to plant the tobacco, especially the Vorstenlanden type.

Now, the industry is facing new challenges: The edict and the decreasing plantation land due to the development process and urbanization. Will it die slowly, as some observers categorize it as a sunset industry. Or will it survive to plant another day?

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