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India World’s 2nd largest tobacco producer - types of tobacco grown in the country

India: World’s 2nd largest tobacco producer – types of tobacco grown in the country

Aug 30, 2017


Author: Mr. Jithendra DS is the Vice President – Leaf Operations for Godfrey Phillips India

Till the late 1500s, this crop was virtually unknown in the Indian subcontinent. But once it made its way from the new world – halfway across the globe, it quickly adapted to the Indian conditions to become a major cash crop. Today, India is the 2nd largest producer of tobacco in the world with an estimated annual production of 800 million kilograms. The tobacco plant is grown in largely semi-arid and rain-fed areas where cultivation of alternative crops is generally unviable.

Grown in various regions in 13 states across India, the kind of tobacco grown is used for cigarettes and chewing products. Large tobacco firms like Godfrey Phillips (GPI) are committed to maintaining the quality and signature taste that each popular brand is known for. And to this end, tobacco companies are not responsible for just sourcing tobacco, but are closely involved at the research and cultivation stage as well. The entire supply chain from the field to the factory is closely monitored to ensure sustainable cultivation, adherence to quality and improvement in product yield.

Given GPI’s close association and understanding of tobacco cultivation and decades of experience in every stage of tobacco production, the company not only works towards optimizing quality, but also pioneers R&D and on-ground efforts to ensure maximum benefit to the farmers and security of supply. GPI’s comprehensive infrastructure and supply chain are a testament to commitment to quality.

GPI’s tobacco capacity


Types of tobacco grown in India

Various regions, particularly in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, are ideal for tobacco cultivation. As the second largest tobacco producer in the world, India produces various grades and types of tobacco for domestic consumption and global exports.

FCV tobacco:

  • SLS
  • SBS
  • NLS
  • KLS
Bidi tobacco
Non-FCV tobacco:

  • Sun cured
  • Burley tobacco
  • Oriental tobacco
Wrapper tobacco
Cheroot tobacco
KFC tobacco
Hookah tobacco

While India’s tobacco production patterns vary from global patterns given the unique nature of chewing products made for India, the country is still the third largest manufacturer of FCV or Flue Cured Virginia tobacco.

FCV tobacco

FCV tobacco is a variety of tobacco used for production of cigarettes and accounts for 40% of India’s total tobacco production at around 300 million kgs. FCV tobacco is grown in only three states – Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Telangana. The kinds of FCV tobacco available in India are:

FCV SLS (light soil): Grown largely in the red loamy soils of Andhra Pradesh, this leaf is lemon to lemon-orange in colour. With a nicotine percentage of 1.5 to 2.5, this medium bodied leaf is used as a filler. Available: March to July

FCV SBS (black soil): Grown in the black soils of Andhra Pradesh, this is also of a similar colouring and is used primarily as a filler. With a nicotine percentage of 1.5 to 2.7, this is also a medium bodied leaf and is used as a filler. Available: March to July

FCV NLS (northern light soil): Grown under irrigated conditions in the sandy loam soils of Andhra Pradesh, this is deeper orange coloured leaf and is considered a substitute for Zimbabwean and Brazilian tobacco. With a relatively higher nicotine content of 1.8 to 3.8%, this large leaf is semi to full flavoured and is available from March to mid-August.

FCV (KLS Mysore): Grown in the loamy sand soils of Karnataka under rain-fed conditions, it is popular for being low on nicotine and a neutral filler. This USP of this leaf is that it can be blended with any other tobacco leaf without imparting a character of its own. Available: September to March

Non-FCV tobacco

Other types of tobacco used in cigarettes (and other tobacco products), or non-FCV tobacco include:

Light Soil Burley: Grown in the different agro-climatic zones of Andhra Pradesh, this Burley tobacco is a tan to brown colour. It has a nicotine percentage range of 1.3 to 3.2, is medium to large in size and sees a production of around 18 million kgs in India.

HDBRG: Grown in various tobacco friendly zones, this is also a rich tan to brown coloured leaf and is used for blending in cigarettes, in pipe mixtures, chewing plugs and hookah tobacco pastes. This very large leaf is available from April to June and has a nicotine percentage of 1.5 to 3.5.

Kurnool Natu: This nut-brown coloured leaf is primarily used for cigarette blending and for hookah tobacco paste blending. Grown largely in the Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh, Kurnool Natu is a medium to large leaf with a nicotine percentage of 1 to 3.25 and is available from Arpil to June.

EluruNatu: This dark brown coloured leaf is mainly used for cheroots, snuff, pipe tobacco, cigarette blending and hookah paste making. Produced in the East and West Godavari and Khammam districts of Andhra Pradesh, the EluruNatu has a much higher nicotine percentage of up to 4.5% and is available from April to August.

Non-cigarette tobacco

India grows a large variety of tobacco leaves used in chewing products, pipe mixture, hookah pastes and so on.

Lalchopadia: This golden yellow sun-dried leaf is mainly used for chewing and snuff. Grown mainly in Anand district in the state of Gujarat, this leaf is sun cured for 10-12 days till the stem dries and the leaf develops a yellow colour. Once dried, they are tied into bundles and bulked for aroma. Available from April to August

Black Chopadia: This sun cured dark brown leaf is used as chewing tobacco. Like the Lalchopadia, this is also grown in the Anand district of Gujarat and is bulked for fermentation. Available from April to August

Red Chopadia: Again, a sun cured variety, this yellow tobacco leaf is used for chewing products and is also known as lal-chopadia or sauna. Known for its very high nicotine content, the leaves, once dried, are tied into bundles and bulked for developing aroma. GPI offers export packaging sizes of 250gm, 1000gm, 100kg and 200 kg cartons. Available from April to August

Rustica: Also known as Calcutta tobacco, this sun cured leaf is used in chewing, hookah, tobacco sheets, kreteks, pipe mixture and to some extent, in cigarette blending. With a high nicotine content of 3 to 6%, Rustica is heavy bodied and greenish brown to dark brown in colour.

DFC/KFC: This dark brown coloured tobacco is used for pipe mixtures and hookah tobacco paste. Grown in the Nizamabad district of Telangana and Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh, this large leaf has a nicotine content of 2.5 to 3.75 and is available from March to June.

Apart from being closely involved at every stage of cultivation and processing of various types of tobacco in India, GPI also sources leaves from Brazil, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and other tobacco growing regions to customize and create varieties of blends for clients from across the world.

For more information or queries on our tobacco leaf products, please reach out to us.


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