The tobacco industry in the Ilocos region has staged an impressive recovery, two years after it was
adjudged a sunset industry.
National Tobacco Administration (NTA) Edgardo Zaragoza said: “The recovery was fuelled by
increased exports to a total of $20 million this year from an average of $6 million every harvest
season in previous years.”
More and more farmers went back to tobacco farming and bigger areas were cultivated, said
Exporters of tobacco led by Universal Leaf are now putting up healthy competition to local cigarette
manufacturers like Philip Morris and Fortune Tobacco.
They have been entering into contract growing arrangements and extending technical as well as
financial assistance to growers.
Considered for over half a century as the prime cash crop in Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, Abra, part of
Pangasinan and some towns in the Cagayan Valley, tobacco growing suffered major setbacks in
Two varieties were cultivated, Virginia tobacco originally coming from the state of Virginia in the US
that requires flue-curing to dry, and burley tobacco a variety that is sun-dried and gives classy
flavor to local cigarettes and cigars.
The decline in recent years was the result of a growing worldwide movement against cigarette
smoking coupled with a shift by many Ilocano farmers to the cultivation of hybrid yellow corn when
the latter was seen to be more profitable.
A tobacco farmer from Tagudin, Prudencio Garlejo, said he shifted back to planting Virginia tobacco
when he found out that profits from the golden leaf is twice as high as that from yellow corn.