CLAVERIA, Misamis Oriental – A tobacco company on Thursday distributed food and groceries to tobacco growers in this town who were hit hard by the dry spell.

The Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Company said the assistance to about 700 farmers is meant to ease their burden of loss income due to the drought.

Ravi Lumunsad, the firm’s operations manager, said the company also paid the farmers for the difference between the total labor and machinery rental costs and the total value of tobacco purchases.

It also decided to condone the loan owed by the farmers from the company who took the risk in planting during the dry spell, Lumunsad said.

The food package assistance was worth P10,000 for each hectare planted to tobacco or P5,000 for a half hectare. The package consists of P4,000 worth of rice and P6,000 grocery items for farmers who planted during the extreme dry months. For those who did not plant were also given their food package worth P1,500.

“Since we started operation in 2012, tobacco planting in Claveria has brought better income to the farmers, better than when they planted traditional crops where the cost of production was high and the profit margin was minimal,” Lumunsad said.

Claveria is the site of PMFTC’s continuous production operations as tobacco leaf is grown and harvested all year round. Farmers here plant the flue-cured variety which matches the excellent variety grown in the United States and Brazil.

Claveria was found to be an excellent location for growing tobacco because of its even rainfall distribution and good soil.

“Tobacco planting has become a cash crop for the residents as they gained better income allowing them to send their children to college and improve their lives. It also provided employment opportunities to the community and nearby municipalities,” said Didet Danguilan, PMFTC communications manager.