Tobacco farmers in the mountainous Merapi-Merbabu areas in Cepogo and Selo districts, Boyolali, Central Java are having a difficult year due to the wet dry season threatening to reduce the quality of their tobacco leaves, which may lead to severe price drops.
A local farmer in Sanden Village, Cepogo, Boyolali, said, “This year’s tobacco harvest yields are far from our expectations. Dried chopped leaves of tobacco were priced at Rp80,000 [US$6.07] per kilogram, but now they are selling at only Rp60,000.” Another farmer predicted that all tobacco farmers would suffer losses in this year’s harvest. He also said that in a good harvest, he could get profits of more than Rp20 million, but this year he predicted he would earn no more than Rp5 million. “We have no choice. If we don’t immediately harvest our tobacco leaves, we will suffer greater losses because we have to allocate more treatment costs.”
After harvesting the tobacco leaves, farmers chop and dry them by spreading them out in the sun to dry. However, this year’s dry season has seen cloudy skies over the slopes of the Merapi and Merbabu mountains. Tobacco leaves must be dried the same day they are chopped, otherwise they will be damaged and their worth declines further.
To combat this problem, many farmers look for alternative locations with enough sunlight, such as fields or roadsides, or even renting the yards of people’s houses, to dry their chopped tobacco. This, of course, increases their production and transportation costs. Just drying one ton of wet tobacco leaves costs around Rp1 million in labor costs alone.
To add to the challenges they already face, farmers cannot yet sell their dried chopped leaves to cigarette companies because so far no company has opened warehouses to store them.
According to the Boyolali Agriculture, Plantation and Forestry Agency’s plantation unit, the wet dry season had decreased the production of dried tobacco in Boyolali to only about 6 to 7 quintals per hectare. In 2015, the production could reach 9 to 10 quintals. This year, 3,000 hectares of tobacco had been planted in Boyolali, spread across areas on the slopes of the Merapi and Merbabu mountains, such as in Ampel, Cepogo, Mojosongo, Musuk and Selo.