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Sustainable agriculture and farmer livelihoods

They grow, we grow

Tobacco leaf is the most essential part of our products, so the farmers who grow it are absolutely crucial to the success of our business.

Sustainable agriculture and farmer livelihoods

How does BAT support farmer livelihoods and sustainable agriculture?

Our agricultural supply chain

Farmers are at the very heart of our business.

We do not own tobacco farms or directly employ farmers – but our approach to agriculture and working with farmers means that we have strong influence.

We buy more than 400,000 tonnes of tobacco from around 90,000 directly contracted farmers and third party suppliers around the globe. These are mainly in developing countries and emerging economies in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

No two farmers are the same and tobacco farms vary greatly in terms of scale and activity. Some examples of the differing characteristics of farmers’ businesses are:

  • Small scale farms of one hectare or less that are not mechanised and do not use hired labour. They grow food crops for their own consumption, such as fruit and vegetables
  • Medium scale farms with between 1.1 and four hectares of land that have some mechanisation and hired labour. They grow other crops for commercial sale, such as wheat and maize
  • Large scale farms with over four hectares of land that are fully mechanised with some hired labour. They grow multiple crops for commercial sale, such as cotton and soy bean.

Providing support

We invest more than £60 million each year in supporting our contracted farmers. We have more than 1,000 BAT leaf technicians around the world who are an important source of advice and support for these farmers, helping them to run successful, profitable and high-yielding farms. These leaf support technicians directly support more than 90,000 farmers.

Setting standards

Our Social Responsibility in Tobacco Production (SRTP) programme, which ran for more than 15 years, set out the minimum requirements we expect of our tobacco leaf suppliers in areas such as sustainable agriculture, environmental management and human rights. Through annual self-assessments and on-site reviews, SRTP promoted best practice and drove continuous improvement across our leaf supply chain.

In 2016, we replaced SRTP with the Sustainable Tobacco Programme (STP), an industry-wide initiative developed in collaboration with five other manufacturers to bring together best practice from across the industry. It is also aligned to important external standards, such as those of the International Labour Organisation, and includes strengthened processes and more frequent on-site reviews.

The programme has been adopted by all major global tobacco manufacturers and their leaf suppliers. Its aim is to provide a more consistent and robust way of assessing suppliers’ performance, reducing complexity and driving continuous improvement across the global tobacco leaf supply chain.

STP applies to all our first-tier suppliers. These are our own in-house tobacco leaf operations, which directly contract the 90,000 farmers we work with, and third-party suppliers, which contract their own farmers.

Tobacco farming

  • More than 100 countries grow tobacco.
  • China grows the most, followed by Brazil, India, USA and Zimbabwe.
  • Less than 1% of the world’s total agricultural land is estimated to be used for tobacco farming (based on data from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations).
  • Tobacco is only grown for part of the year leaving the land available for other crops, including food, to be grown during the rest of the year.
  • Growing tobacco would seem to pose no greater environmental threat than do crops such as cotton and sugar and there is minimal evidence of it contributing to food insecurity (DD International, ‘The role of tobacco growing in rural livelihoods’, 2011).
A day in the life of...
A day in the life of...

A day in the life of our work with farmers and our leaf research.

Sri Lanka CSI
Sustainable Agriculture Development Programme

Our programme in Sri Lanka empowers rural villagers living below the poverty line by giving them the skills, knowledge and resources to become self-sufficient.