BHAWANIPATNA: Bumper harvest of onion has come as a curse for the farmers of Kalahandi district in the absence of marketing facility and Government intervention to ensure good price for their produce.
According to Horticulture department sources, during current rabi season, onion was grown on about 1,000 hectares. The department had provided seeds at subsidised rates for 650 ha. In the rest of the areas, farmers bought seeds from the open market.
Farmers of the district, who mainly depend on onion cultivation as their main cash crop after paddy and maize, had harvested more than 15,000 tonnes against the local annual consumption of about 6,000 tonnes.
In the absence of adequate irrigation facilities, they had sunk water harvesting structures in Bhawanipatna, Kesinga, Narla and Golamunda blocks to water their crops through traditional methods.
The farmers, who had eyed good profits, are now forced to sell their produce from the harvesting field at throwaway price. Onion is being sold to traders of other States at around Rs 5 per kg. In the markets of Bhawanipatna, Kesinga and Junagarh retailers are selling onion at Rs 10 per kg.
As has been the practice, traders from outside, particularly Chhattisgarh, purchase onion at cheaper prices, hoard it for about three to four months till the demand rises and sell it at higher price. The irony is, even consumers of Kalahandi purchase onion from these sources paying higher price during lean season.
Lack of storage facility and absence of controlled market network to check distress sale have been the main reasons behind the current plight of onion growers.
Under Horticulture Mission, 20-tonne onion storage capacity is available to farmers at 50 per cent subsidy, but there are few takers. Reason: Each storage facility costs Rs 1.75 lakh.
Gopabandhu Sahu, a farmer from Matia village and Kaluram Majhi of Kharsel village said they do not have enough money to use the storage facility. They are forced to sell onion directly to traders after harvesting to avert losses.
Deputy Director, Horticulture, Sudhakar Sahu, said of the allotted target of 400-tonne storage of 20-tonne capacity each in 2015-16, only 200 farmers used the facility. In 2016-17, only 100 farmers availed the benefit. Citing the reason behind the decline, Sahu said under the system, farmers have to first invest for availing storage facility and then get subsidy. Under such circumstances, if banks are ready to finance the storages, more farmers can avail the benefit.
On marketing, Sahu said Regulated Marketing Committees can lend a helping hand by opening mandies with storage facilities or utilise cotton mandi as onion is grown in areas where cotton is harvested.