TITILAGARH:First, it took more than two and a half years to supply electricity to the Integrated Pack House of Apicol meant to store onion in Titilagarh and avoid distress sale of the crop in Western Odisha districts. Now, a month and half after commissioning of the pack house, it has gone haywire damaging thousands of bags of onion which were stored in it.
Sources said a high-level meeting is scheduled to be held in Bhubaneswar among officials of Agriculture department, Apicol and district administration on the fate of onion growers whose crop has been damaged. The snag has exposed the apathy of the State Government towards providing infrastructure and promoting onion cultivation.
Under Titilagarh sub-division, known as Nashik of Odisha, onion is grown on 20,000 hectares (ha) in Titilagarh, Muribahal and Bangomunda blocks. In the absence of infrastructure to conserve the produce, the crop is getting badly affected resulting in distress sell year after year. The pack house was expected to change the scenario.
The pack house was constructed at an estimated cost of `5 crore. Although it was ready for commissioning by 2014-end, the only hurdle was that there was no proper electricity connection as transfer of land and financial sanction were mired in red tape. The unit has capacity to store 900 tonnes of onion and the facility was finally commissioned on May 15.
The onion stored in the unit was supposed to be kept under controlled temperature, before it developed ‘technical snag’. The 100-odd tonnes initially stored in the pack house germinated exposing the fact that temperature was not being controlled. To add to the woes, there is no power back-up and long hours of power cut were inevitable. Farmers alleged that they were informed at the last moment to shift their stored produce but there was hardly anything left to shift. They said the crop was not insured and there was little hope of getting any returns affecting them further.
Sources said it is being planned to compensate the farmers at `4 per kg for damaged onion. About 3,350 bags of onion have been damaged. Contacted, Deputy Director, Horticulture, Balangir P K Swain admitted that there was technical snag and hoped that the problem in the Integrated Pack House would be resolved soon.Sub-collector Girish Chandra Singh said the grievances of the farmers would be looked into.