VIJAYAWADA: With tobacco farmers facing problems in getting remunerative price for their produce, Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy on Thursday said the government would intervene in the auction.
"In the next two to three days, a special committee, headed by an IAS officer, will be formed to solve tobacco farmers' problems. The government will fix minimum sale prices for high, medium and low quality tobacco. The list of rates approved by the government will be available at the purchasing centres during the auction," Jagan said and added that all the licenced traders and companies will have to participate in the auction for stock purchase or else their licences will be cancelled.
The Chief Minister said that this year the government has purchased groundnut, banana and other corps directly from the farmers, using the Market Stabilisation Fund to the tune of Rs 3,200 crore. "We have made bulk purchases during COVID-19 situation to help the farmers. We will also purchase tobacco," Jagan assured.
The Chief Minister addressed a tobacco board review meeting focusing on farmer-trader issues at the Tadepalli camp office where the officials listed the challenges being faced due to COVID-19 crisis. Farmers present at the meeting shared the impact of the lockdown on tobacco business.
The Chief Minister was also informed about how nearly 20 million kg of low and medium grade varieties of tobacco, which account for the majority of the produce, have been rejected by the traders this year.
Representatives of farmers explained to the Chief Minister that they were asked to harvest the crop and when it was ready to be sold, the stock could not be shifted to the auction centres due to the lockdown.
"We are being given indent, but the produce is not being purchased and the price has fallen after the COVID-19 lockdown," the farmers said.
"If we don’t get back our investment in one year, for the next six years, there will be losses," they said adding the companies are not buying tobacco despite giving orders. They said that the farmers are spending Rs 1.4 lakh per acre. Though 920 licences were issued, not even 15 are participating in the auction. The buyers have joined hands and are dictating terms on farmers, they alleged.
Responding to the issues raised by the farmers, the Chief Minister stressed on bringing a feasible systematic methodology to be practised by all departments for ensuring more transparency in the process.
"The board and the companies should work together in an organised manner and fix a minimum rate for all the three qualities of tobacco for selling. Purchases should be made as per the prices fixed by the government, or else the licences will be revoked," the Chief Minister asserted.
Agriculture Minister Kurasala Kannababu, Education Minister Adimulapu Suresh, Energy Minister Balineni Srinivas Reddy, TTD chairman YV Subba Reddy, officials and representatives of trading companies and farmers were present.