Tractors a vehicle of survival for Punjab’s debt-ridden farmers
By Harpreet Bajwa | Published: 11th March 2018 08:51 AM |
CHANDIGARH: Tractors of all makes can be seen lined up on the fields at Moga, Patiala and Talwandi Saboo in Punjab in the weekends. It is at these tractor mandis, as they are locally called, where the state’s farmers sell their used tractors.
Farmers from Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan flock these markets, where at least 50 of the heavy farming vehicles are sold on a regular market day.
According to the government data, despite less land holdings, the sale of tractors in the state is highest in the country and has around 4.5 lakh tractors owned by its farmers.
Breaking away from the perfect image of the Green Revolution that brought glory to Punjab in the 1960s and 1970s, the state’s farmers, caught up in an endless cycle of debt, have resorted to buying the tractors and selling them at the weekend mandis.
Farmers are lured by attractive schemes offered by tractor companies and in the absence of financial assistance from banks, are mostly supported by non-banking finance companies.
Many incidents have come to light in which the farmers have sold the vehicles almost immediately after buying them. After buying a tractor for approximately `6 lakh, the farmer sells it at a price ranging from `5 lakh to `5.5 lakh. The farmer then uses the money to repay debts or loans. While he has to pay the bank in instalments, the lump sum he gets at the mandi helps him and his family survive for a few months.
The state has cultivated land to the tune of one crore acre and only requires one lakh tractors for agricultural operations — much lesser than the existing number.
“Tractor has to be used for at least 1,000 hour per year but most of them are underutilised. On an average, the tractor is used for 200 to 300 hours per year by a farmer,” says Balbir Singh Rajewal of Bharatiya Kisan Union.
In other instances, farmers with two to four acres of land take more land for lease and they fall into this trap of buying tractors and farm equipment as farm machineries are no longer available for rent.
Underutilisation of tractors in farming has increased the demand of tractors in non-agricultural sectors, especially of higher tonnage in construction and infrastructure. Experts feel not more than 10,000 new tractors should be sold in the state. However, last year, 22,000 tractors were sold.
Mahindra & Mahindra Limited’s sales head Rajiv Rellan said, “This year it is expected that around 55,000 tractors will be sold by the industry in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir — of these, 23,000 in Punjab alone. In Punjab, the re-sale in very high around 85 per cent as the farmers sell their tractors after three years, while in other states it is around 30 per cent. The farmers from other states, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and so forth come here and buy the tractors at cheap rates.’’
Sale figures rising
A report by India Ratings and Research says tractor sales in the country are expected to touch a new record in the financial year 2017-18 but will be moderate in 2018-19. With the total sales of 6.59 lakh tractors in the April-January period of 2017-18, the industry has recorded a growth of 16.6 per cent. It is estimated that for the entire fiscal, the tractor sales will cross the mark of 6.96 lakh sales, which it achieved in 2013-14.