Kalahandi is one of the leading onion growing districts of the state along with Balangir, Nuapada and Angul. But the farmers are not getting adequate support at the right time.
This time, not only traditionally the onion growing area has been neglected, even cheaper seed supply that too by private parties has raised suspicion. Post-harvest, the farmers face severe storage problem, but the agriculture department just sits over these issues.
Because of wrong policy decisions, onion farming has been ironically been discouraged in the traditional belts. In the present rabi season, onion has been grown in 5000 hectares area in the district as against 3037 last year.
Harvesting has slowly begun and is expected to speed up next month. According to Lingaraj Acharya, deputy director of Horticulture, a good yield is expected.
Bhawanipatna, Kesinga, Narla, M Rampur and Lanjigarh blocks under Bhwanipatna sub-division are the traditional onion growing blocks. Farmers used to irrigate the crop with water drawn from wells inside the field itself. However in the rabi strategy of current year, there was substantial reduction in the area.
Strangely, more focus was given to new areas like Dharamgarh subdivision that gets enough water from the Indravarai project. The thrust was to utilise water for onion and thus divert farmers from summer paddy. But neglecting the traditional onion belt has raised many questions.
During current year, the Agriculture department has collected 25 quintals of ‘Agro Found Red’ variety of seeds from the National Horticulture Research and Development Foundation, Nashik. This variety is said to be suitable for the area for it can be preserved for long period of 120-130 days. The seed costs ` 650 per kg but on subsidy it is supplied to the beneficiary farmer at Rs 200 per kg.
However, as against the seed requirement of 560 quintals, only 25 quintals of this variety was made available to the farmers forcing them to look to private traders. In fact, one particular trader supplied N-50 variety of seeds to the farmers raising suspicion. The keeping quality of this seed is 90-100 days and it was made available at much cheaper price of ` 50-100 per kg. Farmers were not aware about the intricacies of quality. As a result in many places there was germination problem. There is allegedly no guarantee certification from where these private seeds are obtained.
Added to the woes of the farmers is the storage issue. As against an estimated assessment of production of 27,400 tons of onion in Kalahandi, there is storage facility of only 1875.