SAMBALPUR: Absence of a market link and storage facilities have been forcing farmers to sell their produce at distress prices. Despite a repeat of the situation year after year, concrete steps are yet to be taken by the State Government to redress the woes of the vegetable growers.
Vegetable farmers in Bargarh district, cotton growers of Balangir, Kalahandi and Nuapada districts, onion cultivators of Titilagarh in Balangir district and maize farmers of Nabarangpur district continue to suffer heavy losses due to Government apathy.
Lack of basic infrastructure to store their produce too has hit them hard with farmers in several areas getting returns much less than the cost of production. With no other option to earn a livelihood, they toil hard in the fields only to earn peanuts. While the middlemen and traders reap benefits, the farmers continue to suffer and the State Government prefer to close its eyes to their problem.
To add to their woes, demonetisation has eaten into their small market scope and farmers have decided not to harvest their crop as it would propel them into penury from poverty. Take for instance, while people in the State may find vegetable cheaper during the winter, in Bargarh cauliflower, cabbage, flat beans, French beans, cucumber and brinjal are sold at Rs 10 a kg, bitter gourd is priced at Rs 15, tomato Rs 5 a kg, chilly and snake bean at Rs 20, green peas at Rs 30, melon, radish and potato at Rs 5 a kg, while onion is priced at Rs 8.
The only two costly vegetables are ladies finger sold at Rs 20 and potol which is priced at Rs 30. If vegetable farmers are to be believed they get 40 per cent of the market rate of vegetables.
Since harvesting involves much more cost than the price they are offered for the produce, farmers prefer not to harvest it. Sushil Sahu of Sirigida village in Sohela block of Bargarh district had cultivated tomato over seven acres of land and had spent Rs 2 lakh on seeds, pesticide and fertiliser besides labour. Though his tomato crop has ripped it is left to rot in the field as neither harvesting is financially feasible nor the price offered is lucrative enough to help him recover the cost of production.
Similar is the story of Rajendra Barik and Sachi Barik of the village. There is no buyer for tomato even at Rs 1 per kg, they said. The tomato farmers are more worried over repayment of their loans. Recalling that they had sold tomato at 0.25 paise in past, they said the situation has not improved. Cauliflower, cabbage and brinjal too are likely to meet the same fate when harvesting peaks.
Chilli harvesting has already gone the tomato way and farmer Faguni Biswal of Balijuri village under Bargarh block has allowed the crop to ripen than invest on harvesting it which would entail more cost. Deputy Director, Agriculture, Bargarh, Naba Kishore Das said more than bumper crop, it is demonetisation which has pushed farmers to the brink.
Demonetisation has been creating a transactional problem and keeping traders away. While the only cold storage in the district at Barpali is lying defunct, proposal is in the pipeline for developing two cold storages, one in Bargarh and another in Padampur. He hoped that things would improve after it gets operational.
Meanwhile, farmers said the availability of a cold storage, food processing industries, development of mandi and marketing system would have helped them get right price for their produce.