The National Tobacco Administration (NTA) is serious in promoting tobacco dust as a control agent for snails in fishponds and a surefire organic solution to head lice. NTA administrator Edgardo D. Zaragoza says these are but two of other applications of tobacco, which had traditionally been used for chesterfield cigarette manufacture.

Zaragoza also said the NTA has reduced its projection of tobacco output for the crop year ending this month, saying the more likely figure would be 77 million kilos from the 79 million kilos projected earlier.

He blamed La Niña for the reduced forecast, saying tobacco leaves are lighter this year due to heavy rains spawned by the weather phenomenon.

With the new figure, the value of tobacco will reach P5.05 billion or 4.2 percent higher than the P4.846 billion registered in 2010.

A facility for the manufacture of tobacco dust was established in Sto. Tomas, La Union precisely to supply fishponds in Central Luzon and elsewhere with the product, which had been tested for several years in Bulacan, Bataan and Pampanga.

Tobacco dust comes from the low-quality leaves of tobacco or leaves left in the field that are transformed into powder form to be applied in fishponds as organic solution to snails.

As organic molluscicide, tobacco dust fends off attacks by snails in a manner that is much better than inorganic molluscicides.

NTA established the facility in July 24, 2009 and it went on stream a week later to produce the tobacco dust that acts against predatory snails as a molluscidide and also performs the role of a fertilizer by hastening the growth of green algae or lablab needed by milkfish in pond culture.

With tobacco dust, fishpond owners need not apply sodium cyanide in battling the predatory snails since the chemical kills not only the snails but the milkfish as well.

Studies have shown that with tobacco dust rather the commercial mulluscicides, pond owners would save P1,426 per hectare for nursery and P19,401 per hectare for growout.