Reducing the environmental impact
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. For some curing methods additional heat is required for which farmers use fuels.
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.
Our goal is to eliminate the use of unsustainable wood sources by our contracted farmers. Our monitoring of our contracted farmers’ wood use for curing has shown 99% was from sustainable sources for the last three years.
Our afforestation programmes encourage tree planting to provide a sustainable source of wood for farmers who require it for tobacco curing. In Pakistan, we have a long-running afforestation programme, which has seen over 75 million trees planted and is considered to be the largest private afforestation scheme in the country. And in Bangladesh, our Bonayan afforestation programme, which was launched in the 1980s, has distributed more than 100 million free saplings to rural communities.
We are also encouraging some of our contracted farmers to cure their tobacco with appropriate, locally available alternative fuels, such as candlenut shells and 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.