Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC (CTC) has a history of over 100 years in Sri Lanka and during this time, has become a vital component of the country’s agriculture and business sectors. Over the years, CTC has promoted good agricultural practices and sustainability initiatives which have enriched the lives of farmers and uplifted the rural economy in a significant manner. The Company’s efforts and innovations have led to it being recognized as pioneer in the agriculture sector of the country.
Recently the Company invested in a new, more efficient tobacco curing technology known as the “Loose Leaf Barn”. Initially developed in Brazil, the Loose Leaf Barn technology has many benefits such as reduced labour requirement, improved tobacco quality, and reduced risk of accidents. For around 80 years, local farmers have been using the traditional barn method to cure tobacco. While this technology has been improved over time to use waste biomass (paddy husk) as fuel and automated feeding to improve efficiency, farmers have faced challenges such as labour scarcity and the need to spend more time in operating the barn and running quality checks. In order to support local farmers, CTC recently decided to introduce the technology in Sri Lanka with the aim of helping farmers maximize efficiency and productivity of the curing process while saving time and resources.
CTC buys its entire tobacco leaf requirement from local farmers, thereby supporting around 300,000 livelihoods and infusing around Rs. 2 billion to the rural economy annually. The company purchases the full crop produced at a guaranteed and pre-agreed competitive price, reducing the burden on farmers while also providing all the input resources needed for cultivation on credit basis. In addition to this, tobacco farmers receive ground level technical support through an extension service managed by CTC.
The company studied the Loose Leaf Barn technology locally and modified it further to suit local conditions while making it more affordable to farmers. The main enhancements to the technology include the use of a container as the body, in place of bulky structures built of concrete or brick. In addition to this, the Sri Lankan model also uses a specifically designed furnace and is operated on paddy husk instead of diesel as the fuel.
Loose Leaf Barn technology provides many benefits to the local tobacco farmer such as reduction in labour requirement as it eliminates the need to tie tobacco leaves to drying shelves and makes quality observations much easier. It also significantly reduces the number of days taken to cure tobacco leaf by increasing efficiency in the form of improved specific fuel consumption. Tobacco farmers benefit from cost saving per kilogram of tobacco produced.
CTC’s Head of Supply Chain, Rukshan Gunatilaka speaking on the new technology noted “As a company that works with over 20,000 local tobacco farmers, we are constantly looking at ways to introduce new technologies and good agriculture practices that make their lives easier, while improving the quality of the leaf produced. We will continue to invest behind the farmers who partner with us and help them improve their operations and in turn profitability.”