Cash-strapped Andhra farmers stare at huge losses

M Seelamma of Panchalingala village is worried about raising even `5000 needed to hire labourers to harvest the crop in another week.

Published: 18th December 2016 12:17 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th December 2016 09:03 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

KURNOOL: She had plans to celebrate Christmas with family, expecting her two acres of coriander to fetch around `30,000. Derailed by the demonetisation bug, M Seelamma of Panchalingala village is worried about raising even `5000 needed to hire labourers to harvest the crop in another week.

She has been calling the traders, who have to clear the bills for the Bengal gram sold to them. They are offering cheque. She is refusing because there is no point in accepting them. Banks will not give her cash immediately. “Even if I engage my entire family in harvesting, I would be five persons short. Delay means the yield will come down. We require more hands to remove coriander seed from the plant,” she said.

B Thimmappa, a 45-year-old farmer in Tulisapuram of Kurnool, too is a worried man. He spent `40,000 per acre on cultivating Bengal gram over five acres. “I owe my farm hands `20,000. They are putting pressure on me. They will refuse to harvest the next lot due in two weeks. I went to the bank five times, but could only withdraw `2000,” he laments. If not harvested in time, the crop will lose value and not fetch the price it should.

This time of the year during Rabi, farmers in Kurnool take up cultivating millet, oil seeds, pulses like Bengal gram, red gram and chillies with paddy to a lesser extent. Several had completed sowing and started the process of weeding, using fertilisers and spraying pesticides, before the announcement of demonetisation.

Now, a majority are facing problems in getting workers for weeding, spraying another round of pesticides and harvesting, which starts in the last week of December and continues till the end of January. Even if the cash problem eases in January, farmers are worried about recovering the minimum support price. Rates falling is another concern. Prices of red gram, black gram fell by `30 per kilo in the last month and they are afraid that traders might offer a lower price now.

D Maddileti, a young farmer from the village who also cultivated Bengal gram, said he needs around `15,000 per acre for weeding and spraying pesticide. It's hard to manage and promises of late payment have not convinced the farm hands. “Even getting loans is difficult as everyone is on the same boat. There is no cash, although many have bank accounts full of cash,” he said.

7.29 lakh hectares- Total area sown in the state of Andhra Pradesh during Rabi season.

Paddy 42%
Coarse grains 64%
Total pulses 65%
Rainfall status Scanty

The effect of demonetisation has been such that Chinna Venkanna, a 45-year-old from Rematta, who cultivated three acres of Bengal gram and left another five acres unused, has lost hope. “I need money to engage labourers for weeding, spraying pesticides and harvesting. I have deposits with the Primary Agriculture Cooperative Society, but they have no new currency. I am unable to get loans and Kharif bills are pending with traders. I don’t know if I will get even my investment back.”

The situation is no different with bigger farmers like Ghouse Mia of Ullakala village and Hussain Basha of T Kotakonda village of Devarakonda mandal. While Ghouse had cultivated 15 acres of onion, eight acres of chillies for Rabi, Hussain cultivated eight acres of Bengal gram, two acres of jowar and two acres of red gram.

“I am due for harvest in 15 days, but there's no cash to engage workers. If I can't, pest infestation will render the crop useless. I have money in bank but can't withdraw,” he said. Ghouse paid a farm hand his wage to stand in the queue at ATMs, but had no luck.

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