By : Nayantara S. Nayak
The state of Karnataka in India produces some of the best Flue Cured Virginia Tobacco in the world, 75 percent of which is cured with fuelwood and another 20 percent with coffee husks. This paper examines the economic feasibility of reducing the use of fuelwood in curing tobacco leaves. The study finds that there are few alternatives to the dominant use of fuelwood in tobacco curing in Karnataka in the medium term. While farmers incur some 10 percent higher costs, on average, from using fuelwood relative to coffee husks, they prefer fuelwood because it is available, easy to store and requires no modifications in traditional barns. However, some scope exists for increasing fuel efficiency by using improved technologies such as Venturi furnaces and barn insulation. In addition to energy savings, the two technologies also bring down the cost of curing tobacco, making the net present value of installing fuel-efficient technologies positive in most cases. Tobacco curing in Karnataka requires nearly 700,000 tons of fuelwood every year. If all fuelwood-using tobacco farmers adopted the two fuel-saving technologies, 12 percent less fuelwood would be used on aggregate. Field data shows that a very small percentage of the wood used for curing is collected from forest depots with the rest coming from private plantations and, possibly, natural forests. Thus, fuelwood plantations, which are very profitable, could be encouraged, particularly on wastelands. The study also recommends that extension services should provide better information to farmers on coffee-husk use and fuel-efficient technologies to promote their adoption.
Keywords :Tobacco curing; Alternatives; Biomass; Feasibility; Accounting
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