British American Tobacco (BAT) Philippines is taking vigorous steps toward its promised expanded operations in the Philippines, starting with the delivery of its commitment to procure more tobacco leaves from local farmers this year.
“We are buying more tobacco leaves from Filipino farmers this year, double more than what we purchased last year, as we committed,” James Lafferty, BAT Philippines general manager, said.
Lafferty led the BAT’s Leaf Sourcing Team, which included officials from its affiliate companies in Malaysia, on an inspection of tobacco leaves sources in the northern province of La Union.
The team conducted an assessment of pre-trial grades of tobacco leaves, smoke evaluation tests, and inspected the green components of the facilities
In the heat of the Sin Tax debates last year, BAT announced it will buy 3.6 million kilos of Philippine tobacco leaves in the 2012-2013 planting season, up 100 percent from the 1.8 million kilos it purchased in 2011-2012.
The commitment was made in part to assuage the concerns of tobacco farmers that approval of the Sin Tax law will mean their loss of livelihood.
Lafferty said that, with this year’s purchase, BAT is in fact the biggest buyer of Philippine tobacco in relation to market share.
“We are only less than 1 percent of the market and yet we are buying almost 5 percent of the total projected harvest. The excess Philippine tobacco leaves that we buy are being smoked all around the globe, as I have pushed the company to use our excess in other markets,” Lafferty said.
He also said that, anecdotal evidence suggests that the Sin Tax law will have no adverse impact on the tobacco growing industry this year. “We have been told that the forecast is it will perform robustly this year,” he added.
Raadee S. Sausa