We encourage farmers to use sustainable sources of wood for curing
Curing is a carefully controlled process used to achieve the texture, colour and overall quality of a specific tobacco type.
Different methods are used, often depending on the type of tobacco. For example, Burley tobacco is ‘air cured’, where the tobacco leaf is hung in unheated, ventilated barns to dry naturally until the leaf reaches a light to medium brown colour. You can read more about these different curing methods in About tobacco.
However, for some curing methods additional heat is required for which farmers use fuels.
Sustainable wood sourcing
For farmers who require wood as a fuel for tobacco curing, we promote afforestation programmes to enable them to obtain it from sustainable sources and we have a target of zero use of natural forest for our directly contracted farmers’ curing fuels by 2015.
In 2012, we made progress towards this target, with a fall from 7.3 per cent to 4 per cent of wood sourced from natural forest. 56 per cent was sourced from company sponsored or advised forestry and 40 per cent from commercial forest.
Alternative fuels and fuel efficiency
We are also encouraging some of our contracted farmers to cure their tobacco with appropriate, locally available alternative fuels. These can include gas, sawdust, coal, candlenut shells or liquid petroleum gas, as well as coffee or rice paddy husks. All fuels have environmental impacts, so we are also evaluating ways to minimise fuel consumption, for example by using innovative designs for curing barns. You can read examples of these in Alternative fuels and curing barns.
Related carbon dioxide equivalent
Wood burning in tobacco curing generates carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) of leaf curing by our contracted farmers has been calculated by sustainability and climate change consultancy Verco. Estimated CO2e was down in 2012 by 4.86 per cent to 5.29 tonnes of CO2e per tonne of tobacco leaf cured. Total estimated CO2e was 1.38 million tonnes (1.56 million tonnes in 2011).
The improvement in 2012 reflects the continuous adjustments in our global sourcing, as well as increasing the proportion of tobacco we purchased that was cured with waste biomass, which is considered to have zero emissions.
Not all tobacco farmers need wood for their operations, but where they do, we encourage farmers to source it from woodlands grown for fuel supply purposes and to plant trees to supply their own needs. The trees are usually grown alongside tobacco farms as an environmentally sustainable crop.
Since the 1970s, through our agronomy support for contracted farmers, our companies have sponsored and promoted the planting of over 400 million trees in areas where growers require wood. The trees mitigate growers’ impacts on wood consumption and also provide carbon sequestration, acting as ‘carbon sinks’ to absorb CO2 from leaf curing.
The carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) absorption by trees sponsored and promoted by our companies has been calculated by Energy for Sustainable Development.
The 140 million trees planted between 2007 and 2012 are estimated to have absorbed more than 1.25 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions in 2012 alone – this is equivalent to well over half of the annual CO2e emissions from leaf curing by our contracted growers, and the potential of all the trees planted is considerably higher.
Long term objectives
Our long term wood use objectives are embedded into Social Responsibility in Tobacco Production (SRTP) programme which applies to all our leaf suppliers. They cover the areas of self-sufficiency, education and efficiency.