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Company converts former vegetable farms

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, July 21, 2008) - Farmers in the Sigatoka Valley have turned to the tobacco industry for their livelihood.

For Sher Gul, 61, looking after 11 acres of tobacco is a change for the better.

Mr. Gul was spreading fertilizer in the tobacco fields on Monday. With him was his two-year old grandson.

The father-of-four said the plantation was used for vegetable farming until the tobacco company gave most of the farmers land and planting materials to harvest tobacco plants.

"I have been farming tobacco for three years now. I used to plant tavioka (cassava or tapioca), cabbage, tomatoes and potatoes. We even had cows and goats.

"Now we grow tobacco for the British American Tobacco Company.

"They provide the farming materials and fertilizer. Tobacco farming has become a source of income for most families living in the area."

[PIR editor’s note: London-based British American Tobacco Company produces Dunhill, Kent, Lucky Strike and Pall Mall cigarettes.]

Gul maintains the tobacco farm on a weekly basis and believes money earned has helped reduce the rising prices this year.

He said the tobacco company covered transportation and production costs of the plantations.

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