The challenge in encouraging sustainable practices among tobacco leaf farmers is that we are dealing with thousands of small-scale farmers, many of whom are in emerging economies. However, through tailored approaches and agronomy support, we can help them to build stronger, more sustainable operations, securing our future leaf supply.
We provide agronomy support to some 149,000 farmers directly contracted to us. These supply approximately two-thirds of our tobacco leaf, with the remainder coming from suppliers representing a further 60,000 farmers. The support includes providing quality seed as well as guidance on crop management, soil and water protection and environmental best practice. The guidance is not limited to tobacco farming, it covers all areas of agricultural practice.
Our global agronomy centre, which became fully functioning in 2010, facilitates the sharing of best practice and supports our leaf managers in their work with farmers.
Social Responsibility in Tobacco Production
Our Social Responsibility in Tobacco Production (SRTP) assessment is focused on driving improvement in the social and environmental performance of all our leaf suppliers. It has been shared with the industry and was recognised, along with our Biodiversity Partnership, as an example of best practice in ‘The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity’ study.
The process involves annual self-assessments and the implementation of improvement plans. These are then reviewed and assured by an independent company, LeafTc. You can read more about SRTP on www.bat.com and the details of the review criteria are available on the website of our independent reviewer: www.leaftc.com .
In 2010, there were 18 independent SRTP reviews of leaf suppliers in eight countries. By the year end 93 per cent of suppliers had been reviewed at least once. Average scores show an improvement in 2010 – see SRTP performance data. To increase the incentive for suppliers to improve their performance, we have developed minimum thresholds within SRTP, to be rolled out in 2011. If suppliers do not reach these, they risk losing their contracts.
Sustainable wood sourcing
Some farmers burn wood as a fuel for tobacco curing or use it to build curing barns. In 2010, we saw a significant increase in wood fuel sourced from natural forest by our directly contracted farmers – from 4.3 per cent to 12.1 per cent – see wood fuel data. This was largely the result of a review into the reporting of wood fuel sources, to better distinguish between categories and identify unknown sources. Having established more complete data, we feel confident in now aiming for zero use of natural forest for curing fuels by 2015.
Tobacco leaf supply: what's next?
From 2011, we expect our suppliers to achieve the minimum performance thresholds for SRTP assessments. We will also work towards our new aim of zero use of natural forest for directly contracted farmers’ curing fuels by 2015.