SRIKAKULAM: The Covid-19 pandemic has been hitting custard apple farmers in Srikakulam Agency hard. Though the custard apple farmers have received high yield this year, they have been facing huge losses due to lack of minimum support price (MSP). Custard apple is one of the lucrative horticulture crops for the tribals in Srikakulam Agency. Tribal farmers in Seethampeta Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) have raised custard apples in more than 6,000 acres.
Tribal farmers in Seethampeta, Palakonda, Veeraghattam, Bhamini, Kotturu, Mandasa and Meliyaputti mandals have been cultivating custard apple as separate and intercrop as podu traditional cultivation in the hill area. As many as 10,000 farmers, directly and indirectly, depend on the custard apple cultivation in Seethampeta ITDA limits. There is a huge demand for Seethampeta custard apple in north Andhra districts and southern Odisha districts. And this year, the tribal farmers have a reason to cheer: the yield is very good. However, due to Covid-19, traders are not buying the fruit from the tribal farmers.
Therefore, the farmers have been selling the perishable fruit at low prices to the middlemen and local traders. As the government has not fixed the minimum support price (MSP) for custard apples, traders and middlemen have been procuring the crop at low prices. Local traders have been buying custard apples for Rs 20 per kg in the Agency.
However, they were selling the same for Rs 100 in the plain area. Due to their financial problems, farmers have no other way but to sell them at low price. Lack of cold storages in ITDA limits is another reason for selling the crop at low price. Intermediaries and local traders are taking advantage of the situation and exploiting the farmers. The tribal farmers have been demanding the ITDA officials to announce minimum support price (MSP) for custard apples as announced for pineapple.
Savara Ramarao of Seethampeta mandal said, “ITDA officials did not focus on custard apples. Therefore, the custard apple farmers have been depending on the local traders, who have been buying custard apples for Rs 20 per KG in the Agency. However, they are selling the same for Rs 100 in the plain areas. As August to October are the peak months for custard apples, ITDA officials should focus on the farmer’s loss, provide MSP f and take action to set up a cold storage at Seethampeta ITDA limits.”