BHUBANESWAR: Distress sale of turmeric in the tribal-dominated Kandhamal district despite a bumper harvest of the produce last year has raised an alarm.
Farmers are selling their produce for as low as `9 or `10 per kg though the minimum support price has been fixed at `14.25 per kg by the Government.
In 2013-14, turmeric produce amounted to 2,21,702 tonnes with 28,173 hectares of land under farming. Kandhamal and Koraput were the major producers with 13,756 hectares and 3,126 hectares of land respectively.
At 1,30,000 tonnes last year, Kandhamal accounted for more than 50 per cent of turmeric yield in the State and second highest in the country. The high production has, however, proved to be the bane for farmers.
Sources said lack of proper processing and marketing facilities resulted in the distress sale.
“Since the tribal farmers do not have a marketing tie-up, merchants from other districts, who help them financially before cultivation, buy their produce post harvest in lieu of the cash-help,” said Sukanta Subudhi, Deputy Director of Horticulture, Phulbani.
As farming is done organically, turmeric produced in Kandhamal is of the highest quality and has huge demand in UK and Gulf countries. But due to lack of awareness, most of the tribal farmers sell their produce to traders at throwaway prices.
Turmeric is grown in the hilly areas here and a tropical weather is the most suited for this crop. Farmers primarily depend on the monsoons for a better yield. Seeds are sown in the months of May and June with a harvesting period of eight to 10 months.
The major procurer of raw turmeric are agro-based industries while the processed ones are purchased by Kandhmal Apex Spices Association for Marketing (KASAM), a consortium of farmer cooperative societies.
As per sources there just about four processing units in the district which fail to meet the needs of the farmers. There is a need for six more processing units, each costing around `5 lakh, to dry and process a large quantum of produce, said sources.
“A strategy should be chalked out to strengthen the marketing network so that exploitation of tribals could be checked. The middlemen who buy the farmer’s produce below the MSP should be dealt with an iron hand,” said Ramesh Chandra Das, Joint Director, Department of Horticulture.