Reducing the environmental impact
Curing is a carefully controlled process used to achieve the texture, colour and overall quality of a specific tobacco type.
Different methods are used, often depending on the type of tobacco. For example, Burley tobacco is ‘air cured’, where the tobacco leaf is hung in unheated, ventilated barns to dry naturally until the leaf reaches a light to medium brown colour. For some curing methods additional heat is required for which farmers use fuels.
You can read more about these different curing methods in About tobacco.
Not all tobacco farmers need wood for their operations, but where they do we encourage farmers to source it from woodlands grown for fuel supply purposes and to plant trees to supply their own needs. The trees are usually grown alongside tobacco farms as an environmentally sustainable crop.
Our goal was to achieve less than 1% use of natural forest for contracted farmers’ curing fuels by the end of 2015. This target was nearly met with 1.8% of total wood coming from natural forest (2014: 5.2%). Our new goal is to eliminate the use of unsustainable wood sources by our contracted farmers.
Our afforestation programmes encourage tree planting to provide a sustainable source of wood for farmers who require it for tobacco curing.
To compensate for those trees that have been felled, we have planted more than 170 million trees through our afforestation programmes over the last seven years.
We are also encouraging some of our contracted farmers to cure their tobacco with appropriate, locally available alternative fuels. These can include gas, sawdust, coal, candlenut shells or liquid petroleum gas, as well as coffee or rice paddy husks. All fuels have environmental impacts, so we are also evaluating ways to minimise fuel consumption, for example by using innovative designs for curing barns.