Tobacco Growers to Protest over 'Smear Campaign' against Cigarettes Holding
Bulgarian tobacco growers have vowed to take to the streets unless what they call a "smear campaign" against Bulgartabac, a major tobacco holding group in the country.
Earlier the private company announced it was halting all sales to the Middle East as of April 01, citing an alleged negative media campaign and the "sensitive situation in that region".
A series of media publications had suggested Bulgartabac products allegedly constituted a major share of cigarettes smuggled into Turkey. The company denies.
The National Association of Tobacco Growers - 2010 and The Union of Oriental Tobacco Producers in Bulgaria have said, in a joint statement published on the former organization's website, have called on leaders and members of political parties to put an end to "political rhetoric" targeting Bulgartabac.
The organizations say they are ready for protest action against any developments that might affect "more than 200 000 tobacco growers".
As part of its exit from the Middle Eastern market, the company is also slashing 400 jobs (or 8% of its employees) and cutting the tobacco buyout program by 80%.
"If the company stops buying tobacco in the same volumes, it means over 15%, or around 4 000 000 kg, worth BGN 20 M [EUR 10 M] of the tobacco produced in the country will not be bought out, the organizations say."
The joint-stock holding company was for years known for alleged links to the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) party and its member Delyan Peevski, a controversial lawmaker and alleged media mogul.
Peevski announced in February he was "withdrawing from the ownership of Bulgartabac", with the shareholding company whose majority owner he is "selling its stake". Several days earlier Turkish media had reported he and DPS honorary chairman Ahmed Dogan had been barred from entering the Turkey.
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