In India (reported by Dr Bhandari), 16 million people are estimated to be involved in the tobacco industry, with 2.1 million in the cultivation sector. In his study, he found that the average monthly household income for tobacco farmers is 4,700 rupees, compared with 4,000 rupees for non-tobacco farmers in the same area and this is reflected in a greater affluence and a better quality of life ( e.g. television sets, own transport). There are fewer under-age marriages, dowry is less frequently stipulated and a larger proportion is educated to at least secondary school level. Tobacco farmers also have greater contact with other branches of agriculture and this is reflected in a higher standard of overall crop production. It is interesting to note that, although the non-tobacco growing communities receive more government aid for health facilities, transport and other aspects of infrastructure, the tobacco-growing sector has as a matter of fact the better overall infrastructure as it tends to attract greater private investment.
The social relevance of leaf tobacco production was also demonstrated by Ayres for Brazil. A viable agricultural community is particularly important there to avoid rural migrations to the cities and consequent extreme poverty. Tobacco-growing provides such viable communities. Furthermore, because most farm units – which are relatively small – are farmer-owned, they provide centres for family activity and this helps increase the stability of the social environment.
Growers and their families feel secure in their occupations as they are growing a crop with the highest return in that region, marketing is assured, transportation is provided by the buyers, etc. The strength and affluence of the industry enables an integrated system of leaf production, involving crop planning, extension, financing, guaranteed purchase of the crop and environmental and social programmes. His message is that farmers should be kept on the land. With a crop like tobacco they can be part of organised agriculture that considerably strengthen their representative power on social and other issues and on the services they receive. This is largely absent in other commodities.