In the European Union, tobacco cultivation has steadily decreased since 1991 – when approximately 400,000 tonnes were grown in eight EU countries – to 140,000 tonnes in 2018 – when four new EU countries had joined the producing countries. In 2018, EU tobacco represented some 66,000 ha (half as much as in 2001) and 26,000 specialist producers.
Tobacco is currently grown in 12 EU countries. The main producers are Italy, Spain, Poland, Greece, Croatia, France, Hungary and Bulgaria, accounting for 99% of the EU tobacco production. There is a trend towards smaller growing areas, mainly due to falling consumption of tobacco products.
Yields vary between one and three tonnes a hectare, depending on the variety. "Flue-cured" Virginia varieties account for 71% of output, "light-air-cured" Burley varieties 16%, "sun-cured" or oriental 7% and other varieties ("dark-air-cured" and "fire-cured") 6%.
The EU produces less than 2% of global yearly raw tobacco production. In 2018, the EU imported some 420,000 tonnes (indicating an increasing trend) and exported 120,000 tonnes (indicating a decreasing trend) of raw tobacco.
The EU's tobacco regime is underpinned by EU regulation 1308/2013, which defines raw tobacco (CN code 2401) and provides for interbranch organisations in the tobacco sector.
Since 1993, in the EU, a production limitation system has applied to tobacco and since 1 January 2010, the EU has not granted any specific subsidies for raw tobacco production. The old tobacco subsidy was converted into basic payments through EU regulation 1307/2013 and rural development support via EU regulation 1305/2013.
Given the discontinuation of EU subsidies directly linked to tobacco production, the committee for common organisation of agricultural markets and the civil dialogue group on arable crops have no longer been convened to discuss tobacco-related issues since their last meetings held in November 2015 and in April 2017 respectively.