COVID-19 lockdown: With less storage, Karnataka farmers’ hopes freeze

While procurement efforts by the government and its agencies have left much to be desired, the lack of cold storage facilities for the perishable commodities have added to the farmers’ worries.

Published: 30th April 2020 06:21 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th April 2020 12:32 PM   |  A+A-

Visual of truck drivers people prepering food in Bengaluru. (Photo | Pandarinath B/EPS)

Express News Service

BENGALURU: Thousands of farmers across the state, who had hoped to reap a rich dividend with their bumper produce of vegetables and horticultural crops, were dealt a body blow due to the lockdown.

While procurement efforts by the government and its agencies have left much to be desired, the lack of cold storage facilities for the perishable commodities have added to the farmers’ worries.

Over the last two months, there have been several instances where distraught farmers have either dumped their produce on the roads or crushed them in their fields, unable to get remunerative prices.

According to the state Horticulture Department, there are 208 cold storage facilities in Karnataka of which a staggering 194 are managed by private entities.

Only 14 such facilities are run by the Karnataka State Agricultural Produce Processing and Export Corporation Limited (KAPPEC) and the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC).

Leaders of farmers’ organisations point out that the number of cold storage facilities in the state are inadequate. Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha president Kodihalli Chandrashekar criticised successive governments in the state for lacking commitment towards farmers’ welfare.

“In Andhra Pradesh, there are 150 cold storage facilities for mango and its extract alone. Our state is one of the largest producers of mango, but we don’t have such facilities,’’ he rued. 

‘Less demand for food in large quantity has worsened issue’

“MORE than 60 per cent of the tomato crop is grown in districts in and around Bengaluru — like Kolar, Chikkaballapur, Tumakuru, Ramanagara and other places — but there are no cold storage facilities. We need at least two such facilities in every taluk,’’ he stressed.

Officials too agree that there are not enough facilities.

“Since there was no proper market in the last one month, there is an excess of perishable produce available and farmers are finding it difficult to sell.

Restaurants, hotels and wedding halls, where food is usually prepared for a large number of people, are closed. Procurement of farm produce is a priority for the government, but we do not have enough funds at present,’’ conceded an official who did not want to be named.

However, government officials claim that though there were hiccups initially when the lockdown was announced, most of the issues have been sorted out.

Horticulture Department Secretary Rajendra Kumar Kataria, who is the nodal officer for supply chain management and commodities, pointed out that Karnataka was the first state to initiate opening of food processing units.

“We have around 2,000 food processing units in Karnataka and also a few in neighbouring states. Our officials are continuously conducting surveys and excess produce is being sent to these units. We are mapping farmers, their crops and nearby processing units,’’ he said.


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