BusinessDay

BAT Nigeria establishes N200m farmers’ fund

BATN with a multi-billion Naira investment in Nigeria has launched a N200 million Farmers Fund. The fund is for the re-integration and engagement of over 300 ex-tobacco farmers in the production of food crops such as cassava and maize.

The fund, instituted in partnership with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, IITA was informed by BAT’s resolve to mitigate the impact of the company’s operations on farmers whose livelihoods were affected by the decision of the company to discontinue tobacco cultivation in Oyo State.

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture which will administer the fund is a non-profit organisation that works with partners to enhance crop quality and productivity.

Launching the fund, Oyo State governor, Seyi Makinde who was represented by Segun Ogunwuyi, his chief of staff,  described the move by BAT that has $185 million factory investment in the state as a step in the right direction.

The factory began operations on June 17, 2003, and has attained the capacity to produce about 100 million sticks of cigarettes per day for export to 14 countries.

Makinde further urged BATN to ramp up efforts for continuous improvement in the livelihoods of farmers and other stakeholders along the value chain.

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Following a review of the supply chain process across the British American Tobacco Group to increase its business efficiency, it decided to utilise tobacco leaf from alternative sources and focus its resources in Nigeria on the manufacturing and export of cigarettes. “Accordingly, our leaf operations have ceased,” the company said.

Yarub Al-Bahrani, BAT’s area director for West and Central Africa explained that “BAT is transforming, and this transformation is underpinned by its purpose: building a better tomorrow by reducing the health impact of its business through offering a greater choice of enjoyable and less risky products to consumers”.

Al-Bahrani further said that the organization’s transformation and pursuit to build a better tomorrow is accelerated by innovation and sustainability. “Our consumer-led innovation is centered on anticipating and satisfying the ever-evolving needs of our consumers and providing them with a range of reduced risks products”

According to him, implementing the offer of a range of reduced risks products entails the establishment of manufacturing and export hubs and further investments will be made in Nigeria and across West and Central Africa but Al-Bahrani assured that expansion and investment in new product lines will be at the Ibadan factory.

While emphasizing the company’s commitment to Nigeria and Oyo State as it drives its corporate transformation, Al-Bahrani called for greater collaboration with governments and regulatory bodies, noting that only through collaborative efforts can an effective regulatory framework be developed to enable real choice for adult consumers whilst still serving the tobacco harm reduction public health objectives.

The director-general of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, MAN, Segun Kadiri represented Lanre Popoola, branch chairman of MAN, Oyo, said the choice of a Better Tomorrow by BAT shows that BAT is aware of its impact on people and the environment and willing to deliver a better future.

He frowned at the government’s planned hike in excise duties without discussion with manufacturers. Concerned about the unhealthy emphasis on revenue generation by the Federal Government over the survival of manufacturers, Kadiri supported the call that another excise road map of 3-5 years comprising moderate increases should be established for the tobacco industry.

Also speaking, the director-general of Standard Organisation of Nigeria, SON, Farouk Salim called for collaborative efforts among agencies in ensuring effective implementation of standards in Nigeria.

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